Sunday, December 31, 2017

Enjoying the summer of 2018

Summer in Perth Western Australia

  • Blue, blue skies nearly every day. 
  • The sound of frogs at night. 
  • Gum trees are shedding their bark and emerging all white and smooth 
  • Rosellas and 28 parrots munching the last of the mulberries
  • Watering the vegetables from the water tank -level dropping each day. 
  • Going down to Fremantle on the train, for a fish and chip lunch on the foreshore
  • Still harvesting blueberries from our bushes 
  • It is too hot for lettuce to grow, but I am cultivating mizuna, sorrel and sweet potatoes to add to salad leaves from the shop, along with basil for pesto. 
  • The passionfruit have started dropping from the vine -they are so yummy with our yoghurt in the morning 
  • Putting the shiny sunshade on the windshield of the car, otherwise it is too hot to hold the steering wheel when you get back in
  • Knowing that it is better to park in the shade than to park near the shops
  • The quinces are getting bigger and the olives are fattening nicely
  • Watching the pomegranates for the sign of them ripening
  • Picking tomatoes from our own bush
  • I am now doing the quilting on my bargello quilt. 
The other day my DH commented that the supermarkets had lemons on sale from California for $6.50 per kilo. We both shook our head in dismay. Who doesn't have a lemon tree in their backyard, which is now laden with lemons? If they don't have one of their own, don't they have a friend or relative with one? It seems like many of us have been disconnected from our seasons so we don't know what is ripe and in season-otherwise why would anyone pay such a price for fruit which is so abundant in this climate? The local growers have them in the growers markets at considerably cheaper prices. 

Speaking of lemons, the Eureka in the front yard is doing just what we wanted it to do -supply us with sharp, juicy, thick skinned lemons in summer. They are huge and heavy! Meanwhile we have been netting and bagging the grapes on the vines to try to get some of the fruit for our own use -but the birds have got a few bunches left out for them to snack on. It is a matter of concern for Dora that the birds turn up each morning. She sits on the small table near my sewing machine, which is up high enough for her to keep a surreptitious eye out for the birds, without them noticing that she is there. 

I have been trying to harvest fennel seeds -we use the fennel tops and seeds here for cooking, but I am yet to work out an easy way of getting the seeds separated from the stalks. Anyway, I have about a cupful, which will be good in our salads and bread.

We travelled up to New Norcia for the ecumenical carols on the 30th. This is such a lovely thing to do -carols without the pressure of the pre-Christmas rush, so that we can just enjoy the beauty of the New Norcia environment and the music and the words.

The festivities are over and the year is full of possibilities. Must get back into having some people over for lunches and dinners, whilst the outside is such a pleasant place to be! 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Making connections

The fourth candle is lit and tomorrow is Christmas Day. 

I started this blog on Anzac Day in  2008, as I began my journey into simple living. I wanted to document our story, and truly it is a wonderful resource and archive. When I look back I am amazed at how far we have come: our first raised garden bed, the day we were so excited when the solar panels arrived, the various attempts to improve my bread making (still a work in progress), the family celebrations and significant events.

Over the years the blog has found some friends, too. It is such a gift to have a comment left on the blog from someone who has read and appreciated what I have written or commented upon we are doing here. Not all the readers leave comments, though, and that is just fine.  I am a faithful blog reader too, and don't always make comments on the posts of others. 

I always learn things from blogs, and feel such strong connections with those who write them. You can see my favorites on the blog roll on the right.  

When DH and I were young, we lived a long way from our families. The only way we could be in contact was by an operator connected STD phone call from a phone booth on our college grounds -we didn't have a home phone until we graduated. 

Now my son, daughter in law and grandchildren are living in another state, but we use FaceTime and Facebook live and Messenger to keep in touch with each other frequently. Today we watched little DGD2 being dedicated at church. The vision was great, and it is amazing to think that they could get that signal from country Victoria to Perth Western Australia in pretty much real time. 

I added a battery operated light in among the straw in our nativity scene. 

Dora is too sophisticated to wear a Christmas hat

There will be no embarrassing cat photos on this blog! Here she is, however, sitting on my unfinished and only pinned together quilt. After Christmas I am going to evict her and get the quilting done. I am often very productive after Christmas, as the whole of life slows down and gives plenty of time to get things done. 

Meanwhile, I want to wish you a very happy Christmas. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Decluttering and bread making while the garden grows

The third week of Advent and Christmas is approaching fast, but we mostly feel under control -presents have been organised, cards sent, and festivities begun with the usual end-of-year events.

There are two other things going on around here, one is that I have been experimenting with refining my bread making techniques, and the other is a growing tidal wave of decluttering.

Regarding the decluttering -the new lounge room cabinets liberated a chest of drawers that was used to store craft supplies.  It turned out to be just the right size to fit next to my bed, which until then had only had a bedside table, without drawers. I love being able to put everything away -and there is plenty of room to store my extensive collection of op shop scarves, too. I like the look of the drawers -neat and tidy.

DH was inspired so we measured the rest of the space in the room and were happy to realise that there was room for the same unit on the other side of the bed -and off we went to IKEA buy one for him- they are called Alex and are in the office section of the store. The shallow drawers are great for keeping books and medicines  near the bed. DH is talking about painting the whole bedroom -he is feeling really good about the opportunity it gives to update and refresh everything.

This in turn has led to him taking a keen eye to clutter in his study. The former bedside tables are now side tables in his study, and go nicely with the new photo frames he has been setting up to refresh the decor. The study is a work in progress, because the lead-up to Christmas is a busy time for him. I think that once Christmas is over, he will be happily pottering away on making this place work better and look better.

I have been continuing to tidy up too. DH mentioned that he was feeling the front porch was looking tired, so we rearranged and changed some things there too, to make a less cluttered and spacious entrance to our home. I moved the seed trolley to the back yard -now that I am not working it is easier for me to keep an eye on it there. The mulch is all spread, the roses have been fed and dead-headed and all the junk is gone. The only thing left to do is to get rid of some weeds in the brick paving - I have ordered a special tool for that, which should make it easier to achieve. Have you ever wondered how weeds in dry and hot brick paving seem so indestructible? I can't imagine there are many plants which could survive our baking hot sun  and dry weather, but these things are determined to take over the whole driveway. I am likewise determined that they will not!

Bread making

My sourdough technique has been improved by the use of an overnight first proving of the dough -and also by cooking the dough 'under the dome' of my roasting pan. The result is that the bread is more spongy with good sized air holes and has a thinner but crisp crust. Read my bread recipe and technique here 

The garden is looking great at the moment. Summer production is under way! We feel as though our garden has done a lot of maturing this year, and is now a micro-climate of its own, which is bringing good results in the production of food. Our place looks so lush when others in the street are a bit dry and bare.

Our pomegranates are coming along -not a huge crop, but growing nicely. This one will be cherry red and about the size of a baseball when ripe.

The kalamata olive is in production. 

The grapes on the trellis are ripening. 

The biggest crop is the passionfruit however -there are so many fruits on it just now! 

We are getting good sized Eureka lemons this year, which is confirming we made the right decision to plant the tree to supplement the Meyer lemon out the back. The Meyer lemons come all at once, but the Eureka is more of a continuous cropper. I can't imagine being without a lemon tree or two. Lemons are $4.50 each in the shops! I have a plan to make Nigella's Lemon and Thyme Bundt Cake for Christmas -as we have lots of lemons and thyme. I will probably serve it with some yummy icecream, out on the patio. The forecast for Perth for Christmas day at the moment is 29C, which should be just about perfect. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Living room update-just in time for Christmas

Our new bookcases are in position, and the giant cull of books has happened.  It was difficult to let books go, but we acknowledged that some of the books were just 'there' for no good reason, so they are going off to a local college which holds a book sale annually.

We are all getting used to the 'grown up' look of this room now. With its leather couches and the hearth and bookcases, we are all a bit 'British colonial" in style, I think. We really like this version of our room now.

You will notice that we have our Christmas stockings hanging up -but I haven't made one for DGS2 yet, so there will finally be 8 up there. 

We have gone with non-traditional gold candles for the Advent wreath this year.

The plate is a Royal Doulton one that DD found in her op shop, and the Advent wreath is one I bought many years ago now. The cherries are from Devonport (one holiday when we visited the Cherry Shed) and the holly came from a florist supply shop which closed down some years ago. The sand is from the grandkids' sandpit! 

This display cabinet arrived today. DD is using it to store her craft supplies. Now that she knows everything fits, the next thing will be to make it nice to look at, through that gorgeous bevelled glass. I think she has some boxes in mind, which will bring her stuff together. 

 This cabinet sits in a curious alcove in the room -we think that the original house was designed in typical 1973 style to have a 'bar area' in the lounge room. We don't want a bar area, but it tucks the piano  and the craft cupboard away nicely. 

The nativity which spells 'peace' is a charming addition to our decorations this year. We bought it in the Blue Mountains on holiday. 

The dresser in the dining room is looking festive with two table-top trees and a nativity in a distinctly Russian looking style. 

Our nativity in the shed DH made for it. The disco ball is a long-standing family tradition, which started when DS and DD thought the Angel in the background looked like he was doing the disco The Christmas bauble looks just like a disco ball, and thus a tradition was made. 

These little Ikea book shelves are just right for the ever-changing displays of seasonal icons. At the moment we have the Annunciation and the Birth of Jesus, with a cute little picture on the top shelf of Mary in bed reading, whilst Joseph is minding the baby. It was a Christmas card sent by a friend, and I was completely charmed by it, so I kept it. 

The red candle is battery operated, so safe to leave on, and the wrought iron candle holder came from DD's op shop, where it had sat for weeks with no-one wanting it. DD got it for very cheap during Volunteer's Week, as they had a special discount for volunteers. 

My lovely treadle sewing machine is hidden inside her cabinet, and instead we are displaying my Auntie's immaculate 1930s machine, behind my "Stargazy" advent calendar quilt. Santa seems to have made friends with a pokemon!

The decorating and culling is continuing here. DH has some ideas for a revamp of his study and I have installed a different bedside cabinet next to my bed. There has also been a general tidy up outside -the entrance is now clear of old wooden pallets DH had thought to use in his workshop, but they weren't very nice wood so they went to the recycle centre. I finished spreading the mulch, so the tarpaulin has gone from the front driveway too. Now all we need is a suitable 'flamethrower' type gadget to be delivered, so we can remove the persistent weeds from the brick paving, and we will be so unbelievably smart!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Playing with water -my quilt is under construction

Here is my quilt "Playing with Water" on my design wall. The centre panel is Japanese and is called "koi at the waterfall". I found it in Melbourne, when my good friend B showed me a couple of special fabric shops she knew.

I wanted to create a quilt with the feeling of water and sunlight, so I made my first ever Bargallo style quilt blocks. My Accuquilt Go fabric cutter was very helpful, as it gives accurate long strips to sew together, and then cross cut into the blocks. I am sure it helped greatly with this quilt.

It is hard to photograph the colours accurately. The panel is navy with a grey-blue accent fish and a deep red fish. I am planning a small gray border and a red binding to pick up these accents.

The quilt may have to wait a week or so for more work to be done on it: I have a new Christmas stocking to make. Each year I hang stockings for us all, even though some of the family are far away. This year we were blessed with a new grandchild, so DGS2 needs his own stocking to add to this display.

Our new bookshelves are due today too, so we will be busy rearranging our books and CDs for a while, and generally getting the house back in order.  There is one more cabinet to come, but that will be several weeks yet.

More pictures when the bookcases are in!