Friday, 31 January 2014

Fairies at the bottom of our garden

Friday is "Ma Day" in the Ginger Bread House, and it is always a challenge to "programme" a full quota of activities. Knowing today was going to tip the mercury at 30C, I determined from the get-go, that Alannah and I would "work" in the back garden. Which did the trick. I did not feel at all hot, all day.

We had a sand-pit. We had a swimming pool. We had craft equipment. We had gear for water-colour painting, and gear for poster painting. And the general theme was fairies. I had stashed a painted stone, just one, at the base of a tree, and then wove a story about how it got there, and we were off and running. Now to hope that the models from e-Bay do not take eons to arrive.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Green is green

So, blow me down with a feather, but there I was riffling around the nether regions of my "Caysan Chilli" and I find this little beauty. I must have picked over 50 large, green chillies. Figuring the original seedling to have been wrongly labelled I thunk no more on't. I would have thought that there would be some that are flecked with shades of red. But, there was this brilliant red sample, and a swag of brilliant British Racing Green coloured fruits. Absolutely nothing between. The original label said, once dark green and glossy and large, they would be red within two weeks. Hah! I respectfully beg to differ.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

A view of a room

I think of our garden in "rooms". It helps me divy up the work load into bite-size chunks, so that I do not bite off more than I can chew, so to speak. This is one of the items on my 2014 "To Do " list. It is in the back garden, on the high section, at the rear of the shed.

It is where I do a lot of my plant and soil preparation. It gets a bit of dappled sun, but is more protected than other parts of the garden. I have the orchids there in the summer, but move them into the sun during the winter to help them set flower spikes. The Mondo Grass is coming on a treat with a bit of extra watering. I need to trim the Chinese Star Jasmine again this weekend. It covers nearly every fence we have and is sending out its myriad of tendrils. But mostly I want to re-brick the "floor" of my work bench, make it look good, with a sense of permanence to it.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Sisters | Week 4 2014

A photograph a week of Alannah and Juliet and, if I can, the two together.  Joining in with Jodi over at Practising Simplicity and Josh over at Happy Family Movement.

Alannah plays hide and seek with Daddy | Home, Saturday 25 January 2014

Juliet cuddles a teddy | Family room, Tuesday 21 January 2014

Friday, 24 January 2014

Munchings and crunchings

When my son was a lad, he enjoyed listening to "The Cronicles of Prydain" by Lloyd Alexander, which included a mythical character named "Gurgi" who spoke in rhyming couplets, especially the one in the title of this post. There is nary a better munching and crunching than Snow Peas straight from the vine. These I grew from seed, which solves the transplantation issues.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Stretching "organic" ...

The box says for "the organic control of white butterfly". Well, there is nothing "natural" about it. It is not of or occurring naturally from mother earth. But then again, it is not extruded from chemicals. Well, perhaps all the plastic is, but that is not leaving a residue.

So, how does it work? It can be either solar-powered, or battery-powered. From the box:
The white cabbage butterfly especially favours plants from the Brassica family, eg cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. The caterpillars are very destructive and can destroy plants in a very short time. WCBs are very territorial and will not lay eggs where they see another WCB as they don't want their young to compete for food.

Round and round the garden, like a butterfly ...

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Sisters | Week 3 2014

A photograph a week of Alannah and Juliet and, if I can, the two together.  Joining in with Jodi over at Practising Simplicity and Josh over at Happy Family Movement.

Alannah scoots | Back yard, Wednesday 15 January 2014

Juliet stands | Back yard, Wednesday 15 January 2014

The sisters have their first bath together | Home, Wednesday 15 January 2014

Saturday, 18 January 2014

A new year in the Gingerbread Kitchen

We will have lived in the Gingerbread House for a year come the end of January.  I've been reflecting on what I have learned in the first year and what I want to achieve in the second.

1.  Bread making

I tend to do the same multigrain loaf with a few small variations and I make bread irregularly.  Too often, I look in the bread box at breakfast time and realise I should have made a loaf the night before.

This year:  Make a smaller loaf each day that can be used for breakfast and lunchbox sandwiches. (Alannah starts preschool in February!)

2.  Menu planning

I have worked out a system of menu planning that works for me: Pasta Mondays, Slow Cooker Curry Tuesdays, Meat & 3 Veg Wednesdays, Stirfry Thursdays, Vege (or Fish) Fridays, Oven Bake Saturdays, and Chef's Choice Sundays.

I have also worked out a system of deliveries that works for me.  I get meat delivered by Brookvale Meats (fortnightly on average), milk and cheese delivered by Aussie Farmers (each week), and fruit and vegetables delivered from Sydney Fresh (fortnightly on average) and picked from our kitchen garden.

This year:  Get better at co-ordinating the menu planning with the deliveries and garden by doing menu plans a fortnight in advance and placing or tweaking orders to suit.

3.  Recipes

I have photocopied recipes from my collection of cook books (Bill, Jamie, Annabel, various Womens Weekly publications), printed out (and pinned) recipes from the blogosphere, and organised them all into a folder that makes menu planning a lot easier.  It may always be a work in progress but the bones are there.

This year: Make a Gingerbread Kitchen Favourites cook book.  Not my own recipes, goodness no.  I'm thinking perhaps five recipes for each day of the week, perhaps some lunchbox favourites, even a preserving recipe or two.  Not only would it be great to know all those recipes by the time I return to work (or at least by the time I'm back at work more than I'm at home), but it could also be something I give to the girls later in life.


I am referring to the unuseable portion of the driveway as the "Breezeway Garden". It slopes at an angle that makes it a challenge for modern vehicles. One of our vehicles is a low slung sporty thing, and the other is an SUV. Not only, but also: the garage has a false floor - because of the runoff when it rains - and neither vehicle would make it over the lip . Hence, the garage is really a shed, and that portion of the driveway is really a garden.

It is my hydrangea garden . One side, I have them planted in the ground, and the other side, I have them planted in large black, plastic pots. The summer sun hits about 11am and is over by about 2pm.

I have created a drop-down menu below the header to detail each Hydrandea variety.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Garden churn: out with the old, in with the new

No, no. I haven't turfed out the figs. They are more heavily laden this year than ever before. I shall have to toughen up the slender trunks before next spring or they will struggle with the weight.
The eggplant/aubergine has tickets on itself. At least this time I am giving our chef fair warning that she is about to be inundated. These are called 'lebanese' and somehow I think that implies smaller fruit than usual. Both the tomato disasters were taken out between Christmas and New Year, and one end of that high bed is host to some snowpeas sown in situ. They sprout better this way, and it certainly is cheaper.
I have two cherry tomatoes down in the Breezeway Garden which are loaded with trusses. I am endeavoring to keep the plant aired, and within 6" of the top of the cage. They both look very healthy. Following the advice of a lovely lady at Bunnings, I am keeping them tied up with strips of Chux.
The other end of the ex-tomato bed is germinating cauliflower, broccoli and sweet capsicum. I did not expect them all to germinate, but will find spots for as many as possible. These are the Cauliflower.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Sisters | Week 2 2014

A photograph a week of Alannah and Juliet and, if I can, the two together.  Joining in with Jodi over at Practising Simplicity and Josh over at Happy Family Movement.

Alannah is salty and wet after swimming | Balmoral Beach, Sunday 12 January 2014

Juliet sits next to Daddy | Family room, Sunday 12 January 2014

Dropping off the perch

I was devastated to find this little Rockie lying on the pebbles this afternoon, being too heavy for his poor vine to hold him. Not that she is big mind you, this rockmelon. Runt-sized would be more like it. It does not smell ripe around the stem-area, so I will leave it another 10 days, and see if any progress can be determined.
And here I am with tickets on myself as a garden whisperer. Baloney! Had I been such, I would have stuck some support under the fruit to help the vine. Better late than never, I supported the second fruit, and the third one is already resting on the pebbles.
The Watermelon is in no hurry either! At least it has set fruit come the new year. There is a week between these two shots. I have the vine trailing in between the Lilli-pilli hedge along the verge. Hope no idle passers-by notice them!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Give it a try!

I love beetroot, especially the beby variety that you can buy canned. So, I thought I would have a try growing my own. I am not having success with root veggies. My carrots come as wizened old women, and my beetroots were all over the shop. The first lot of seedlings produced absolutely nothing worth clucking about. I suspect I did not "feed" them enough. The second lot were extremely variable, but at least Kirsten got enough to experiment with. So, Beetroot will go on the backburner, along with celery, hot chillies, and lettuce of all varieties. I do like how their gorgeous colours brighten up a garden, though. Shallow, I know.

Friday, 10 January 2014

From the kitchen: Preserving eggplants

Our eggplant bush is full of flowers and threatening an abundance of little babies in the next week or so.

I'm on the look out for recipes for preserving eggplants.  Any suggestions very welcome.  Here are a few recipes I have my eye on:

Melanzane Sott'Olio (Pickled Eggplant under Oil)

Marinated eggplant

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Water, water everywhere

Unsure what water restrictions are currently in use, I just blithely use what and when I need. All the Sydney dams are still in the 90% full range. Something in my head says the restrictions were never lifted from before the drought broke ... when was that? 2009?

According to the Water Board water restrictions no longer exist; they have been replaced by Water Wise Rules. Before 10am and after 4pm still applies - which I serendipitously abide by. However, I do not have a trigger nozzle. Mainly because keeping a nozzle "on" is tough work for my poor hands, given the combined effect of neuropathy, arthritis, and early Dupuytren's contracture.

When we moved into this house at the end of January 2012, there was a water drip system around the back yard, which we turned off. It is still in place, but I do not think it necessary. As Peter Cundall says, "It's work hard to survive or kick the bucket in our garden." There are a couple of lilies down the back that have considerable browning at the margins, so I will trim all that, provide good old DL and give them another 12 months. Shape up, or ship out.

So, what do I use? Firstly, I tend to alternate gardens: one day, front; next day, back. However, if if has been very windy, or a scorcher, I will tend them both. I will often stand there working the hose held high in a semi-circular pattern, for a (slow) count of 50 per section. But I am never sure how much water this means that the plants actually get. And many fruit and veggies are gross feeders. A few times, of late, I have put the sprinkler on for 45 minutes. I have a lot of potted plants in the veggie patch and I water these by hand using old 3 litre milk containers. This is at least every-other-day. In the front garden I have 25 containers on the go. I find this very hands on, but it also provides necessary time for "plant whispering".

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Sisters | Week 1 2014

A photograph a week of Alannah and Juliet and, if I can, the two together.  Joining in with Jodi over at Practising Simplicity and Josh over at Happy Family Movement.

Alannah explains an important point to Daddy | Front garden, Thursday 2 January 2014

Juliet coos after a bath | Girls' bedroom, Wednesday 1 January 2014

Alannah cuddles Juliet | Games room, Friday 3 January 2014 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Vertical Garden - Panel 1

Collecting the ingredients for the first of the vertical gardens on the driveway fence.

The terracotta pots are 16cm ones available at Bunnings for $1.49 each. I bought 18 of them. Darren chose all the ingredients to attach to fence: some 2cm wide tin (6mm thick), with holes every 2cms; screws appropriate for treated pine; and, a pair of tin snips. The fence has three rails. I will attach 7 poots to one rail, 6 pots to the middle rail, and 5 pots to the third rail. But, I need to decide whether I want to be top-down, or bottom-up. Decisions! Decisions!

The ladder is for the next panel, and is there for storage more than anything. There is a story to the ladder so more on that later in the week.

Once the pots are all attached to the wall (not permanently, they can be lifted out of their ring), I will spray both inside and out before getting Alannah to decorate some of them. Without the lacquer coat, Alannah's paint will simply soak into the clay ... and she will be mightily peeved!

From the kitchen | Meals two ways

(I am having issues with embedding images from Flickr so sometimes they aren't showing up.)

For years now, even before we moved here to the Gingerbread House, we ate dinner together as a family. When I was working, dinner was around 6.30pm. I've recently brought it back to 6pm. Alannah has her bath at 5pm then watches Play School (or a movie on weekends) while I hit the kitchen.

The big challenge of family meals is that Alannah does not like her meals "mixed". Soy sauce, barbeque sauce and mayonnaise are fine, but she must add them herself. I often noticed her pushing things around on her plate to ensure adequate separation.

Over the last year, dinner time has been a struggle. We often eat pasta or stirfry dishes but Alannah increasingly demurred. What to do?

First, I had a word to Santa after seeing some gorgeous Rhubarb divided plates on The Misadventurous Maker's instagram feed and he brought one for each of the girls.

Second, I decided to embrace the idea of one meal two ways. Again, I was inspired in this by The Misadventurous Maker. I did not want to cook a separate meal for Alannah, but I figured I could fashion something more appealing to her out of the same ingredients as we were to eat.

It has only been a week but I think I'm on to something here. Alannah eats more willingly and eats better. She isn't enthusiastic to try things she doesn't like (often things she has never tried), but she does it.

Yakitori chicken two ways (adapted from an Annabel Karmel recipe)

Fried rice two ways (adapted from a Bill Granger recipe)

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Flower arranging

Tried to
display these
across the screen
Aha ... that is better ... 160 rather than 320.

This is the focal point of the back garden, if you ignore the massive trees, and the green grass, that is. It is a circular bed at the edge of the flagged area, which I have been composting up all year. When we moved in at the end of January, it was chockers with Gardenia, White Alyssum (Sweet Alice), and some other creeper. All very white, and very Vogue, in a sterile kind of way. Soon put a stop to that.

I have deliberately over-planted this as wanted it to be an eyeful on Christmas Day, but as it was cold'n'wet we stayed inside. Boo hoo.

The flowers are a tumble of white Gardenia, puce Cyclamen, pink Wee William, pink'n'purple Petunias, and the usual colourful array of Marigolds. All of these will tire by the end of February, whereupon, I will rip 'em out, re-compost, spell for about six weeks, then, perhaps after Easter, try those wonderful Crystal Palace Lobelias again. The ones Alannah and I know as "Cornflower Blues". They would look smashing teamed with Marigolds. I wonder if these particular Marigolds will last into the early parts of our Winter. Only one way to find out ...

From the kitchen | Green chilli jam

So. Many. Chillies.

I decided to try out a recipe for red chilli jam from the Women's Weekly Preserves book. I took a punt that it would work with our chillies which had remained stubbornly green. (Mislabeled by Bunnings perhaps?)

It was hard work.

The recipe called for lots of ingredients, lots of chopping, frying in batches, then hours of simmering.  I had to substitute caster sugar because I only had about half the amount of palm sugar I needed.  By the time it was ready to simmer, I was more than ready for bed, so I whacked it all in the slow cooker overnight instead.  On top of it all, this was my second night in a row working in the kitchen and it was a hot night.  Over ambitious, you could say.


On the plus side, it was my first try out of the Chasseur french oven the girls gave me for Christmas.  Loved it.

And Darren gave the final product the thumbs up for heat and flavour.  It packs some serious punch.

Ingredients: Green chillies, onions, spring onions, garlic, ginger, palm sugar, caster sugar, tamarind paste, fish sauce, canola oil.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Better to be safe than sorry

This display is in one of those spots that I am sure everyone has - a spot one ALWAYS forgets to tend. It gets little rain, and little sun, so succulents are ideal. I did have Bromeliads there until earlier this week, but it is not the right place for them to flourish, and is also too cramped for their rigid straps. Although the planter is secure enough, I know the top pot weighs a fair bit. So I will ask my resident handyman to devise a way of attaching planter to wall, and pot to planter.