Monday, January 31, 2011

Summer in OZ Quilt finished!


Excuse a little excitement but I am quite positively happy about this quilt and how it looks in my lounge room. Pardon the lighting, but I have just put it up on the wall this minute and it is getting dark.

Want to see it a bit closer?

I started this after Christmas. My DD gave me some fabric and I wanted to use some of it in the quilt. I had picked up a lot of quilting books on freecycle and the inspiration for this design was in one of them. I wanted to have a quilt that celebrated an Australian summer, so the Bougainvillea applique was exactly right. I have some wonderful Australian fabrics in the quilt.

There were a few firsts for me in this quilt. First applique in a quilt, first serious attempt at stippling.

Lots of happiness now it is done. WooHoo!

(I already have an idea for the next one....oops I may be obsessed!)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

It could have been so much worse

Ex-cyclone Bianca crossed the coast over Perth last night, but apart from some strong-ish breezes and a bit of drizzle, you would not have known it.

It was thunderstorms that accompanied the unsettled weather which did the damage in the towns of Northam and York, where houses and schools lost their roofs, and in Geraldton, sadly, one young person died when she came in contact with live electrical wires brought down by the storm

We are glad that we have had a quiet weekend. We are glad that we have excellent emergency response teams, which warn us about such possible dangers. We are glad that we took their warnings seriously. My DH is still a little muscle sore from cleaning the gutters, but gutters always need cleaning after summer, and the job is not wasted.

I am glad we finally put together our 'emergency box' of things we would want all together, to take with us should something drastic happen.

I am also glad to hear that our eastern states are also on a reprieve from a cyclone which was bearing down on North Queensland yesterday.

Much to be grateful for!

Friday, January 28, 2011

In the path of a cyclone!

The Weather Bureau is warning of the approach of Tropical Cyclone Bianca, heading for the South West of WA and due to cross the coast early Sunday morning. At the moment the prediction is for a Category One Cyclone by the time it reaches us, with winds of 100-120k per hour and possible flooding of low lying areas.

This is pretty rare in these parts. The last one was in the 1970s and caused much destruction and the loss of 5 lives. I think we should take the warning seriously, and prepare for it, even though most of us haven't had much experience of it. Those who live in the North West of WA are much better at this than we are. My DD and I have just had a talk in which we tried to remember what the people of the north usually do when on 'cyclone watch'.

So today my DD will take down our shade sails and the temporary shade structures we have built over the veggie gardens. We will put away loose objects and lift the cafe blinds on the patio.

I will make sure we have some batteries for a radio. We will begin an emergency box in which we have a few important papers and -perhaps by tonight-a disc of scanned documents which we will want to have on hand.

Should the power supply be affected by strong winds (the most likely scenario for disruption is power poles down) then we have lots of candles. As we have gas for cooking we would probably be able to keep on cooking even without the electricity, and we always have the barbeque for back up. I have a well stocked pantry and the fridge and freezers would be Ok for a few hours at least.

I hope all of this is not necessary. I hope that Sunday morning comes quietly with a bit of welcome rain. With the stories from Queensland, Victoria and NSW lately, however, we are all more aware than ever that the weather in this country can be wild and disruptive, so I guess we are all taking the warnings to be prepared much more seriously than we would perhaps have done so in the past.

I hope that those of you my readers who are also in these parts are prepared for this event, and that we are all safe with our loved ones on Sunday night.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The power of a good label

There is something about the beginning of the year that often causes me to want to organize something.

This is my 'baking needs' cupboard. Recently I went through it and made sure that everything had a label-sadly my housekeeping had got a bit rushed some time ago, and I had dumped a few things into various containers without putting labels on them. Of course I forgot what was what. I had to throw some things out because I could not be sure what they were! I really hate that, it seems such a waste.

The yellow labels come with Decor containers and are OK as far as they go. You can rub out the label and write it again. The only problem is that they have a habit of falling off and then you are back where you started.

The white labels are made by a Dymo labeller, which I got for Christmas a few years ago. My whole family thought it was a great joke when I went around putting labels on everything. The picture below caused some merriment, because I had gone to the laundry cupboard and labeled the hooks so we knew which implement hung on which one.

The fact of the matter is, however, that everything always has a place and people do put things back where they should be.

My case rests, your honour.

Last week I decided it was time to go through the spices in the pantry. I bought some tiny container and sorted them all out. I threw out some that I suspected were rather old. Then I put them in alphabetical order! Makes it much easier to see what is there, and quicker to get them when a cooking project is in full flight.

The power of a good label for me is that I can see immediately what I have and I can avoid buying more of something just because I can't find it when it is lurking somewhere in the kitchen cupboards. We have two other cooks in this house -my DH and my DD so labeling these things just makes it easier for everyone to feel as though they have the tools to do the job properly. We can all have a kitchen that we can use efficiently and we can put things away so that the next person can find them.

It saves us money, time and energy.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wet and Dry

Photo credit: Queensland goverment website.

Like most Australians, I have been shocked and saddened by the devastation wrought by the floods on the eastern seaboard. I have also been quite proud of our excellent emergency management authorities, and the way most Aussies have taken the courageous and generous steps of helping their neighbours. The Queensland flood appeal donation site is here.

We are a very long way away from Queensland. In Perth our summer continues as before -dry and hot.

We have experienced a 40 year drying trend in the south west of WA, which seems to make us one of the places in the world where climate change is showing itself very early.

In contrast to the rest of the continent, the southwest of Western Australia experienced a very dry year, continuing the long drying trend which extends back to the late 1960s. For the southwest region as a whole, the 2010 rainfall total was a record low 392 mm, well below the previous low of 439 mm in 1940. Rainfall in the cropping season (April to October) in southwest Western Australia also set a record with just 310 mm falling; the previous low was 348 mm in 1914. source: Bureau of Meterology.

The CSIRO suggests that if the world could begin to reduce our atmospheric carbon levels, WA weather would get wetter, but that this would be very slow indeed (500 years!) source: CSIRO

This week DH and I have been thinking about a new insulating paint which has been recommended to us, which can reduce internal temperatures thus reducing the need for air conditioning. We already have a painted cement tile roof, so painting with the insulating paint would not be too difficult.

I have also been researching the purchase of a good quality personal shopping trolley, so that we can reduce car use for those short trips to the shop when we have run out of milk.

We have re-jigged several of our vegetable garden beds, by adding water conserving coir and the materials from my worm farm and compost bin so that we can continue to grow the kinds of fresh food we can at home. Today we harvested some onions and tomatoes.

Each time we grow a crop (or half a crop if it fails!) this we learn more of the skills we need to become more self-sufficient, which means we rely less on goods transported over long distances.

We need to do what we can, all of us, to live more simply, for the sake of the earth. Weeks like this week remind me of what I have been trying to simplify my life for, and how much further we all have to go.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Eating in Hot Weather

Here we are =summertime in Perth. Our forecasts are quite boringly predictable, with temperatures in the high 30s for days at a time, and moving in bursts into the low 40s. We expect that it will stay that way until late March at the least!

When it is hot, cooking is an ordeal. No-one wants the oven on for hours heating the house further than necessary. No-one can really face lots of hot and stodgy food either.

Here are two good recipes for jaded summer palates, which are easy to do and do not require slaving over a hot stove for long, and lastly a cheap and refreshing summer iced tea recipe.

Gazpacho-cold summer soup.(pictured above)

Quick to make in a blender or food processor and very yummy.

What you need:
1.5 kilos of good red tomatoes ( I use one 800 g tin and some fresh) 2 cloves garlic 1 red capsicum about half a long continental cucumber one slice of good left over homemade bread or equivalent to about 100 g-stale is fine 1/2 cup red wine vinegar good slosh olive oil 3 teaspoons salt

So far this recipe is standard, and pretty much what the wonderful Stephanie Alexander recommends.
However my added touch is 3 teaspoons of white sugar.

Bung it all in a food processor and then add about 2 cups of water. Let it stand for at least one hour but overnight is good. (My DD recommends that you do not over-process the soup -you don't want it completely blended -a bit chunky is good).

Asian inspired summer soup
Mu inspiration for this was realising that Asian countries are often hot and humid, and that soup is nevertheless a strong component of their cuisine.

After frying off an onion in some oil, add about a tablespoon of fish sauce and about the same of minced ginger and fry a little more.
Add 500 mls or more of stock if you have it, or water and stock cubes (chicken or vegetable).
Throw in whatever vegetables need to be used up in your fridge. I used a piece of red capsicum, carrots, zucchini, green onion tops and some cauliflower. Chop them up to be easy spoon size.

Then when the vegetables are tender/crisp add one packet of Udon noodles and some leaves from the garden -I used a handful of celery leaves and about 4 stems of rainbow chard.

You could add left-over roast chicken or some fish to this.

Cheap Iced Tea

Brew a black tea bag with two herbal teabags -I used one apple and cinnamon and one mango and raspberry teabag -in a teapot with about 600 mls of water for one hour.

In a pretty jug, start with one litre of cold water. Pour over the tea, then add a little sweetness -some ginger syrup or some fruit juice or syrup left over from tinned fruit.

Hope you are keeping cool and enjoying the summer!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

At the beach

Each day we can, during the summer, we head out to Mullaloo beach for a long, early morning walk before it gets too hot (today's expected temperature is 40 degrees Celsius). As we have to go back to work tomorrow, today's walk was one to celebrate.

It was a public holiday today so the surf lifesavers were on duty when we got there, practicing "take offs and landings" in their rowing boat.

We like to walk as far as we can towards Ocean Reef, and love to check out the rock formations and reef gardens as we do so.
We are so lucky to have all this within a 10 minute drive from our house. Down on the beach, with the wind in my hair and my toes in the water, I feel totally spoiled, rich beyond measure. Life is good!