Saturday, June 29, 2013

Don't throw it out- celery trimmings soup

You know how you buy celery, and cut off the leaves etc? You seem to get an awfully big pile of stuff to throw out -often bigger than the stalks that you save.

There is no need to throw them out! You can use celery leaves in salads -but most people find them a bit strong in taste, so this is not a solution for all of the leaves in the bunch you have bought.

We love making celery soup with the leaves and trimmings. It is easy and tasty and cheap! As I wrote here it is important that we try to avoid food waste.
Kent pumpkin pieces, onion flakes and water added

1. Wash the leaves etc and chop roughly.
2. Fry one or two onions gently to bring out the sweetness of the onions.
3. Add some chopped pumpkin or sweet potato (this is important to counteract the bitterness of the celery, but if you can substitute corn kernels or a tin of creamed corn)
4. Add a lot of water (probably 3 litres) to cover everything
5. If you have them dried onion flakes are a lovely addition -they are quite sweet too

6. At this point you can proceed directly to simmering and stuff, but I usually check the fridge and throw in any left overs I might have -this is not necessary but adds depth of flavour.

7. After at least an hour of simmering (2-3 is great) remove some of the fluid and set aside. You want a creamy soup with some body, so don't be afraid to take out quite a bit of liquid-you can put it back later if it looks too thick, but it is impossible to get the fluid out if it is too thin.  I often take out at least a litre. You can freeze the leftover liquid for stock to use in another soup.
Veggie stock removed from the soup -for the start of another meal - I keep it in the  freezer.

8. Using a stick blender, blitz the whole thing.

9. Add some powdered milk and blitz again (start with half a cup of powdered milk). You can also use cream if you have it, or coconut milk is nice too.

10. Check the taste and adjust seasonings.

Enjoy your soup, with crusty bread for preference.

Save the leftovers in small containers (freeze it if not being used immediately) and take to work, and

 congratulate yourself on making nutritious food from things you would otherwise have thrown out!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Winter Feast

 This is the mantle that my crafty DD decorated in anticipation of the Second Winter Feast we have held in honor of the solstice.

 A choir of birds and musicians among the holly and the ivy.

 Venetian masks -one looking back over the year that has been, one looking ahead to the year that is coming.

 A table set for 10 in the lounge room because we can't fit ten in the dining room-in summer of course we would just eat outside on the patio. We invited friends, who brought contributions to the meal.

We served pastries and dukkah with home made bread and sparkling wine for starters.
Roast pork, beef casserole, roasted vegetables, a green salad and a potato bake for the main course.
Figgy pudding with butterscotch sauce and drunken pears for dessert.

 We lit the room with lots of candles. There was more holly and ivy on the table.

 It was a lovely night!
It ended with DH giving our guests a Winter Package of home made marmalade, home grown lemons and turnips and Kaffir lime and bay leaves -just a little sharing of our harvest.
From now on the days start getting longer-yippee!

Friday, June 21, 2013

No ugly 'before' photos here! The ensuite renovation is all beautiful!

 We love our home. After 20 years of married life living in other people's homes, we really valued the chance to buy a house in a northern suburb of Perth, close to the railway line and the freeway, and the coast (well, close enough -no views but a 10 min trip to the beach in the car on a hot day). It was built in the 1970s and needed some TLC.

Over the 20 odd years since we have done quite a lot of work on it.: new driveway, new carport, new patio, new kitchen, new main bathroom.

There was one place which we hated for a long time -our classic 1970s purple ensuite, complete with purple and beige tiles and a purple toilet. It had a narrow high window so was always dark. It had a clingy shower curtain.

Ok that is why there are no 'before' photos here. Ugly. You can imagine it.I am going to forget it!

Recently we had the opportunity to renovate the ensuite. It has a completely new layout, with a brand new BIG glass block window which lets in so much light that we often think the light is on.

 We chose a white and grey colour scheme, so these little slate plates from Wales will echo it. Later they will go on the wall.

 My mum had this little 'whistling sands' souvenir from Wales, and the other is made of slate and is a traditionally dressed Welsh lady with a harp.

 My mother taught me how to say this!

 Checkerboard grey tiled floor.

 Gum leaf pattern border.

 Curved handles on the vanity.
 A large bathroom cabinet with a big mirror which is reflecting the window.

 Curved shower screen.

At last! Somewhere to put things next to the wash basin!!!!!!! <3 p="">

Saturday, June 15, 2013

It starts inside first

Don't wish me happiness
I don't expect to be happy all the time...
It's gotten beyond that somehow.
Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor.
I will need them all.” 

I have been re-reading this precious book by Anne Morrow Lindbergh "Gift from the Sea" - I have it on my Kindle. It is beautifully written and worth revisiting. The author is a mother of five, a writer who lives a very normal busy modern life but who escapes for two weeks on her own to an island and a beach cottage. The meditations on life she writes are wonderful.

One of the things I loved when I re-read it was the way the 'emptiness' of the beach enabled her to see each person, each shell, with new eyes. How little our lives give room enough for us to separate one activity from the next, one personal encounter from another! That is why it is so precious to make a moment to stop, drink a lovely herbal tea in a pretty cup in a warm room on a cold winter morning, and just give myself the space to think.

Another resource I have beside me today is this free resource over at Zen Habits. The Little Book of Contentment is worth the read! We printed it out so we could refer to it again and again..
"All the raw materials we need for happiness is inside of us. The good things we can appreciate to be happy -they are always with us, always there. Noticing and appreciating the goodness in anything causes us to be happy about living. And the more we notice and appreciate about our lives, (and ourselves) the happier we are." 

Roses from an old bush which was here when we bought the house. We moved it from its original location but it survived and still provides us with lovely blooms which last and last. 
Lovely Japanese fabrics inspiring me to start yet another quilt. The book is  "Material Obsession" and I am thinking those large applique flowers would show off the lovely fabrics. My friend gave me some of these and she does applique so it would link the gift and the giver nicely too!

One of the music related blocks I am currently working on. Will be a 'quilt as you go" method. 
 Whilst I am quilting today I will be listening to podcasts of radio programs.

This is one which is most appropriate:
Leunig's view on happiness: seek and you shan't find. Leunig is one of the most profound thinkers of our time, a cartoonist whose pyjama clad explorers and ducks never fail to have something to say to us.

My cat Dora silhouetted against the morning light. She sits quietly here each morning, watching what goes on outside, before finding the warmest spot in the house to go to sleep! 

I am looking forward to filling today with some lovely happy things. How about you? 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Food matters

Tomatoes stored on the bench with a green apple to help them ripen. 
On Wednesday last week, it was World Environment day with the theme of   "Think, eat, save"      -encouraging us all to take care with food, not to waste it.
Think Eat save  is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign that encourages you to reduce your foodprint. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger.  

At Chez Earthmotherwithin, we are working hard on this one -and have been for some time.
Our strategies:

1. Menu planning. This is where I start by looking in the cupboards and fridges and freezers to see what we have got, and then plan meals for a fortnight around those things. This means that we use up what we have got before it gets too old to use. I used to only plan for the main meal of the day, but increasingly I plan all the meals. This includes ways to tart up leftovers to make them more interesting.  I have a number of meals that I now know will work this way.

I have found it easier to do the menu plan if I pick up one of my many recipe books and use it as inspiration for the meals -this takes me out of the 'boring and humdrum' old favourites.

There are three of us here and we all cook, so a menu plan is posted on the fridge and then anyone can see what is for dinner. DH really likes the menu plan because it solves the problem of deciding what is to eat.

DD likes it because she can see what she is allowed to snack on , and what is an ingredient vital to dinner!

2. Eat less meat. Our aim is to eat vegetarian meals on every second day. Meat is expensive to produce -it needs lots of water and land- and to buy, and so we are supporting our budget and the environment by doing this. Last night for example, we had baked potatoes with coleslaw, sour cream, salsa and cheese, served with cucumber, green beans and tomatoes. It was followed with jam pudding and icecream.

Lettuce pot in the winter sunshine 
3. Grow our own. The idea is simple -become more self sufficient, eat healthy and save on food transportation costs. Over the years we have learned a lot and are still learning. It is fun and healthy work, growing your own food, and you know it is safe to eat too. It is also cheap to do.  We also love giving excess food away to friends. One of them commented on how lovely the freshly picked turnip was that we gave her -smooth thin skin, crisp white flesh. Makes you wonder how old the stuff is that we buy from the supermarket!
We are not self sufficient in food. We try to grow things that are expensive -such as asparagus or avocadoes-or lettuces. This is a little pot of lettuce growing outside my sewing room window. Lettuce is $24.00 a kilo and goes slimy when kept if bought from the supermarket. Lettuce I grow is fresh and picked just before eating.  It costs about $3 for a punnet which will supply us for about 6 weeks -and less if we sew seed rather than buy seedlings.
Eureka lemons in season now. 

We also love the condiments and herbs which make food interesting -lemons and limes, parsley and rosemary, mint and sage. These are very expensive to buy -one lemon for $2 or a bunch of parsley for $3.50! Cheap as chips to grow yourself and your food is so much nicer as a result. Dried herbs are different than fresh ones in taste.

4. Store things carefully.
Apples cooked in the slow cooker and frozen for later enjoyment
Flour for breadmaking is stored in the fridge - I don't have enough room in the freezer or it would go there. Cold conditions make it less likely that weevils will spoil the flour until it is ready to use.  Special containers store carrots, celery, spring onions and the like in the fridge to make them last longer. I use glass containers where possible, because I want to limit our exposure to plastics which might leach into the food we eat, and because glass containers are strong and see through and reusable. I often pick them up from op shops.

5. Preserve what is in excess
This is as simple as freezing leftovers so that they don't spoil until you fish them out for lunch -adding them to a toasted sandwich or popping a pastry top on them to make a pie. It also includes making soup out of tired vegetables and then freezing in portions for later. We make jam out of lemons and limes and tangelos we have grown.  I pickled radishes for garnishes to sandwiches (nicer than I expected) and I have done a little preserving in the hot water bath method.
Pomegranates add a luxury touch to summer salads

6. Have a compost bin and a worm farm for the waste -so it is not wasted! 
My worms are easy to look after and turn the small amount of waste we produce into fertilizer to grow more veggies for free. Food waste in municipal garbage dumps creates harmful methane gas -but compost and worms just do the planet good, naturally.

Here are some suggestions for further reading:

Try your local library for these.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A very personal quilt finish

 The quilt I call "Afternoon Tea with Mum" was finished this weekend. It is a very personal quilt for me. It is about a story my Mum told me, about thinking she was finished with her family before I was born, and that when all the 4 other children were at school she would be able to go to 'afternoon tea dances"!

Well, birth control was not a precise science in the 1950s so I came along and then my brother, and Mum never did make to an afternoon tea dance.

Mum told that story with some wry humour, and as I get older I appreciate it more. We all look back at some of the things we wanted for ourselves and wonder why we wanted them.

Mum's words to me are very precious "every baby brings their own love with them". I wanted to celebrate that story by making a quilt about having afternoon tea with my Mum.
 My Mum and Dad were typical of those who lived in the UK in those days -almost any time of the day was the right time for a cup of tea. We shared a lot of them over the years. Mum loved fruit cake and bakewell tarts, but sometimes there were eccles cakes or 'fairy cakes' too.

 These cup blocks came from a quilt designed by Jan Mullens. I was afraid the applique of the handles would be difficult so I didn't make many of these -but when I actually tried with some some wash-away stabilizer underneath to support the machine stitches, they were easy enough.

 The butterflies make me think of having afternoon tea in a garden. This was some fabric I found in an op shop.

 The border fabric has pictures of all kinds of yummy cakes. Did I tell you how much I love spotty and stripey borders?

Here is the finished quilt, which is actually single bed size.  I spread it on my queen size bed because the room was nice and sunny.

I don't actually have a single bed which needs this quilt, but I am so glad I made it. It makes me happy!