Monday, 20 April 2015

Raindrops keep falling

Well I've been a bit lax on the posts recently, and I admit between work and a social life I've not just neglected the blog but also doing any activities which I may later be able to blog about!

And now it is raining.  

This is the radar picture on the Bureau of Meteorology website right now.

We are watching the Souths vs Cronulla game (on our newly acquired Foxtel - how long do you think it will be before I regret the decision to have non stop sport available to watch?!) and the rain and wind are unbelievable.  I think tonight footy players may actually earn their money.

So apart from causing a see-through shorts competition amongst the Rabbitohs team (wouldn't want to be wearing any novelty print underwear tonight) the rain is causing me some other angst - namely a massive leak around my dining room window.

It is quite strange.  When the rain starts, we are dry for a few hours, no matter how heavy the initial storm.  But after a while, a drip starts around the window.  Then two.  And if the rain is relentless (like today) it ends up a basic stream of water coming in around the window.  I can't put a bucket under it as the window sill won't support one, so all I can do is lay towel after towel to mop it up.  I'm onto towel number 5 for the day - and I can't get any dry in this weather so I am quickly running out!

Anyway, I think this will be a job for the professionals  - when we dry out again.  We also have a leak in the roof I think, although the water doesn't come in there, it only  bubbles under the paint.   Ah, the joys of an old leaky house!

So today, instead of pictures of my experiments in gardening or DIY projects I have instead three great rain songs - well maybe two great songs and a good old classic.  Have fun jumping in puddles!

Garbage.  I'm only happy when it rains.  
Well, not entirely true but I do like this song.

Gunners November Rain has to be one of the most awesome songs ever!

No one looks as good singing (and dancing) in the rain as Gene Kelly 

Friday, 10 April 2015

It was (one) year ago today -

Well today I was reminded (by Facebook,  which seems a bit wrong that I now rely on social media to remind me of my life events) that one year ago we were just ripping up the floor and having our panic attack about the missing section.  It was the second day we owned this lovely house and things have certainly changed!  Mind you, there is still plenty to do. 

So as an anniversary present to myself and the Crooked Cottage, here are some before, during and after shots, just so I can remember we really have achieved quite a lot.....

 The lounge room as it was with the previous owners lounge and artwork up - looking from the spare room into the lounge room.

Slightly different angle but the same room now - looking from the spare room into the lounge room - my Florence Broadhurst wallhanging (made by my mum from a piece of fabric I bought at Signature Prints) is much nicer!

 Still working on getting the windows painted and some proper tie backs for my curtains, rather than the current pieces of cheap ribbon!

 The old kitchen - brown and beige colour scheme with fake timber floor and all.  Plus the island bench which was really an outdoor table.  

Via this - after floor taken up, but before we wrestled the million staples and the asbestos got removed
To this - much nicer colour scheme and you can just see the nicely polished floors.

The bathroom also has been given a full make over - from this when the asbestos was removed

To my lovely all white tiled to ceiling bathroom, with the sort of over large vanity (probably didn't need a 1200mm one there).   That window is not current though - it's been replaced after the great council debacle......

And outside - well the palm trees are gone, along with the crappy white rolled up blinds

 The ugly hanging fern and it's green pot have been replaced and prettied up too

 The green pot got painted grey and the horrible half dead fern replaced with some petunias (which I admit are also half dead now - hanging pots are too easily forgotten!)

 We have a great security door - nothing can get in there.  But the blue colour walls are still there - which wasn't really part of my original plan!! That might be the next thing to be fixed up....

So I will have to do another post in one year from today - who knows what else will be fixed up by then?! 

What do you think the next job should be - painting outside, finishing painting inside, fixing the fence (including removing the green paint that the previous owners painted over the sandstone - why??), building a seat on the deck - or do you have other suggestions?!

And please feel free to click on the link for Facebook and "like" my page, I would appreciate the support!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Garden Share - April 2015

I'm very excited to be doing my first ever Garden Share Collective post.  This is a project hosted by Lizzie at Strayed from the Table.  I've been reading lot of the other blogs since I started my own and always feel a mix of jealousy and awe when I read about the other great gardens!  But it also has helped give me some ideas, so you never know, maybe my little courtyard garden may inspire someone yet. 

So the idea is to share what has happened in your garden in the month, and what the plans for the next month are.  Even though it is now autumn I think my garden is busier than ever at the moment, and I seem to have more flowers now than I did in spring!  It is exactly one year this week since we settled on the house, so I feel pretty proud that I have worked so hard in the garden and really changed it around.

And after you read my blog - go and look at some of the others!  You can find the whole list by clicking this link - Strayed from the Table - well worth a read.

So here we go - 

In the back yard I have now added in more vegetables, along with some shade loving flowers. Some of the herbs are going well out there too.  Originally this was barren, and a large part of the yard was taken up by the pond (now removed).
The back courtyard - lettuce, kale, celery, a self seeded capsicum plant, and a nice coleus which was successfully grown from a piece which broke off my large plant and I simply plonked into the ground.

Very blurry shot of my better pot full of kale and celery - apparently the semi shade of my back courtyard are better growing conditions than the sunnier front courtyard.

My shade loving flowers in the back courtyard - coleus (flowering away, has been for months), a pink and a red begonia and my geranium which was grown from a cutting.

The mint is going a bit crazy in the back garden.
 In the front yard all five of my rose bushes have had flowers this month, or are getting little tiny blooms coming through - I have a pink, a peach, two yellow and a mauvey colour one (and I don't know any of their names, which is quite remiss of me!)

The pink rose - one full open bloom which is now fading, and a bud just coming through.

One of the yellow roses, I do love these ones.
The peach coloured rose - this was donated to me by my friend in January when she had to dig up all her garden to allow for a big house extension project - I am so pleased it has managed to grow and now flourish in my garden.

And this is my other pinky/mauve colour rose, still in a tight bud.  This one is my grandma's favourite from my garden, if they are out when I visit her I always take them down to her. 

Also in the front garden I have been growing some vegetables.  Chillies, lettuce, capsicum are going well (particularly the chillies, I have three very prolific bushes!).  I also have some broccolettes (I think that was the term, they are supposed to be smaller than usual broccoli) growing well.  Coriander has self seeded, and I also have some chives growing well.  Basil and oregano are still growing like crazy, and my rosemary bush is lovely as well. My other new vegetable project is growing potatoes in a bag - we will see how this turns out!  I do have some leek seedlings in, but they seem to be very pathetic and skinny, so not sure how they will go.  I have some spinach as well, some in the back yard and some in the front to see which is better.  

The brassicas - for some reason one has been much more successful than others, but all are growing quite well.  In the middle I have the chives and a marigold plant.  Also you can see my slug trap here - although I only managed to catch two slugs!

One of my lovely chilli plants.

The potato in a bag experiment (pre being covered in soil) - hopefully these will be sprouting up by next month or so.
Kale and celery in a pot in the front courtyard, along with a small lettuce plant.  They seem to be better in the back yard, perhaps they need more shade.
The self seeded coriander plants, along with two of the spinach plants.  Not growing as quickly as I would hope, although they're going ok.

So my projects for April are -

1) Chinese vegetables - last year I had lots of pak choi so they need to go in again.  Probably other greens as well, although I'm still not quite sure about when the best time to plant things is - but I'd like to put in some beans and peas.  More spinach would be great.  Basically I will try anything!

2) Work out where I can put some garlic - and get planting.

3) Keep weeding and tidying up the garden.

So I'm sure I will keep busy out there even in my tiny little courtyards - I don't know how people look after their many acres!

Friday, 3 April 2015

Cooking with some of our home grown produce

I might be the main gardener and DIYer in the family but I am very spoilt as my husband is definitely the main cook!  Not only does he cook nearly every night, he also likes to make rather elaborate meals, like our Bento Box meals.  So he's written a guest post for the blog to show one of his most recent creations - 

Now that we’ve got some veggies growing in the garden, it’s time for the best part, eating them! One of the first trips away we took together was to Japan, a country with a tradition of great food. One of our favourite meals is a Bento Box, which is great for entertaining. Our Bento Boxes were given to us by the in-laws, and they bought them here

I tend not to experiment with Bento Boxes, rather I cook four dishes that I have previously done individually. That way you know that each of the four dishes will be good in their own right, and you have a better idea of how to time each dish. I nearly always have a salad, so that it can be made and set aside, and a rice or a noodle dish. For this meal, I also made chicken and chive rolls in soy and maple syrup, and fried prawn balls with sweet and sour dipping sauce. I combine this with garlic steak rice and a crab and mango salad.

Garden produce - lovely chilli, herbs, capsicum

 So to start, here are some of the ingredients for the salad that we grew in the garden, including thai basil, a capsicum, 5 chillies and coriander. Julienne (slice long and thin) the chillies and capsicum, then coarsely chop the basil and coriander.

Supermarket ingredients - hopefully soon we will have limes growing too

These are the ingredients that I bought from the supermarket. I julienned 4 kaffir lime leaves and the mango, then coarsely chop the seafood extender (you can use fresh crab meat if you want to be fancy, tofu for a vegetarian salad). Put it all in together, squeeze out the juice of the lime and put it in the fridge for later. I then put the rice onto cook, and when it’s ready, I rinse it in cold water in the colander and leave it there for later. I got this recipe from the Australia Masterchef series 3 cookbook
(editor note - he has tweaked the salad recipe a little, but click on the link for the general recipe)

Mango and seafood salad ready to eat - yum!

The next dish to start on is the chicken and chive rolls. This recipe comes from a book that’s very special to me. It was written by the Aunt of my PhD student, who gave it to me as a present for supervising her before she went to Japan. It had just been translated into English, which is a little bit helpful.  Find it here

Ingredients for the chicken and chive rolls - another ingredient which will soon be available from the garden
So, to start with you need some chicken thighs and chives. I sliced the thighs and opened them out, then rolled them around the chives, securing them using toothpicks. I then set these aside in a bowl and mix equal volumes of cornflour and water for later.

Next, the prawn balls. This recipe is from a book we bought on another holiday, when we went to China. It’s not Japanese, but it tastes great so what the heck. Just take 2 slices of bacon, ½ a kilo of green prawns and six water chestnuts and cut them into pieces as fine as possible. Mix them with a teaspoon of sugar, ½ a teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, then cover the bowl and put them into the fridge until later.

Ingredients for the prawn balls
 Then, I return to the garlic steak rice, this recipe is also in the Simply Japanese book. Slice four cloves of garlic and place in a large frying pan with olive oil on high until fragrant. Take out the garlic, then cook a New York cut steak for 3 minutes onto each side. Remove and slice thinly. When ready, usually after the chicken and chive rolls are cooked, put the steak, garlic and rice back into the frying pan with a lug of butter and soy sauce to taste.

Now, going back to the chicken and chive rolls, I deep fry in the electric wok. The temperature is to be 180oC, I re-mix the cornstarch and water, dip the chicken and chive rolls into them and then into the deep fryer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I put 2 tablespoons sake, 2 ½ tablespoons of soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup into a frypan on low heat. When they’re cooked, I transfer them into the sauce and coat them as much as I can, before removing the toothpicks and slicing them thickly.

Prawn ball mix
When they’re done, I take out the prawn mixture and roll about 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture into a ball and then roll them over breadcrumbs to coat. I turn the temperature in the wok to 190OC and fry the prawn balls for 3 minutes each, usually I need to do two batches. While they’re cooking, I put all the ingredients for the garlic steak rice into the pan on moderate to high heat. I get the salad out and start filling the Bento Box with the salad, then the chicken and chive rolls, then the garlic steak and finally the prawn balls. Turned out not too bad.

The final product - four delicious dishes which were polished off pretty quickly!