I’ve got good news & bad news. Which first?

Well the really good news is the floor sander turned up when he said he would! The interesting rather than good news, is that our original floorboards are apparently ‘rose’ Baltic pine which gives them a pinkish centre. This according to Mr Sandman is quite rare, so rare in fact that the boards we replaced damaged ones with are the normal Baltic pine because it doesn’t happen often enough for anyone to check.  He was quite concerned that it will look odd once complete and wondered if we wanted to continue or replace all the floor (yeah right!). Upon inspection most of the replaced boards are in the master bedroom, so the bed will cover a fair bit, then when you add rugs, bedside tables and dressing tables and wardrobes etc it is unlikely that it will jump out too much. We really don’t mind too much, the house is almost 100 years old so it is important to us to keep as much of original content as possible.

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The other not so good news was that he uncovered some more borer damaged boards that needed to be replaced. Sanding/finishing job was put on hold until work to replace boards was done,  poor Mr ATMT spent the entire weekend going to Melbourne to buy more reclaimed boards, then removing the damaged boards and refitting the replacements. I don’t think he got a minutes break at all. We (I really did help by staying away from the works in progress as it was better for all parties concerned!) went back and removed a couple of the already replaced boards in the hall and replaced them with boards removed from the kitchen to make the colour variation less noticeable. The spare room at the front has also been put onto semi-permanent hold as there are a few too many boards that need replacing and we won’t be able to fix them in a hurry. We know we will get a few spots of colour difference throughout the floors but hey, it gives character so they say.

IMG_3204Outside action.

While I was doing my bit by staying out of Mr ATMT’s way, I hit the back yard getting a lot of jobs ticked off, namely:

  • Moved potato bed and compost containers that held last years fallen leaves and lawn clippings to a new spot. We are hoping to plant this area out shortly, so the contents were spread to add to the fertility of the bed. This will be repeated again this year in a new spot.

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  • Fed all the citrus trees, camellias, and roses
  • Planted a few new garden shrubs
  • Mowed the grass
  • Planted a stack of seed for spring annuals and perennials
  • Tidied up the asparagus bed
  • Once again tackled the espalier pear,

Espalier Pear March 2014this is growing so fast I can hardly keep up with it. I also topped up its bed with a load of goodies that came from the old composted leaves.  I planted this tree on 10th July 2012 and it is doing its job well.

  • I also cleaned out the gutters along the back of the house, not sure why when they are about to be avalanched by oak tree leaves!

In the Tunnel of Love!

I  played in my therapy pit, the vegetable garden for a while. It is quite impressive how well things are doing underneath the netting that I have turned into a protective tunnel. There is kale, beetroot, broccoli, carrots and shallots in here. I have never grown kale before and had never heard of it when I was growing up. It seems to have hit the road running in the popularity stakes over the last couple of years. Later in the week I will be harvesting my first crop and think something along the lines of a hunza pie might be good. Any good recipe ideas you can pass on would be appreciated!

Kale

Fingers crossed for me that the floor sanding and waxing treatment will now proceed with no more glitches. Got enough of them, don’t need anymore!

Decision making-fors and againsts!

Mr ATMT and I have different views, opinions and attitudes  when it comes to making decisions.  The outcome of whether or not to proceed is based on very different sets of processes undertaken in the mind. It is usually me who is hesitant to quickly jump in, I need time to process and visualise stages that will be undertaken to get to the final point. Having said that, the final point is NEVER as I visualise it. I just cannot, as much as I try imagine how something will look once its been completed. We have been deliberating the pros and cons of having the floor boards done now rather than wait until the rest of the reno is done.

My againsts doing the floors now:

  • Fearful that we will slop, drop, splash paint etc on the finished surface. We don’t have a very good track record of being neat and clean decorators!
  • I have imagined the floors being done after everything else has been done, like putting the crown on the king or the veil on the bride. Ties everything together and make it all shine. Bit like when you sweep the path or wash the windows.
  • Worried we will not get a sense of accomplishment, that this big job will just disappear into the murkiness of all the other jobs we have to face.

Mr ATMT’s fors:

  • Wants to feel like something has been finished (understandable) and that it will be a quick fix hit that we are moving forward.
  • Will help decide what to do with dealing with the cedar trim in relation to paint or renovate the natural timber.
  • Just wants too see it happen!

I think we both have legitimate opinions, I like the fact that we will actually be able to finish the bedroom completely once the floors are done. Bottom line is, what have we got to lose? We are going to use a Whittle Wax product due its more natural components and its much lower environmental impact. Some friends had this treatment applied to their floors a couple of years ago and we have been watching to see how they stood up to it  (the floors!). Quite impressed really! The biggest problem is that we said yes to the floor man on Saturday and he starts on Tuesday and yes, we have to have everything out of the house for him by Tuesday. We also discovered another couple of rotten boards when moving furniture so they needed attention. How do we get into these situations?

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This the front bedroom where we found a board that needed replacement so we robbed Peter to pay Paul and used boards from the kitchen. The whole kitchen floor will be replaced so it is recycling before it even been cast out!

IMG_3173This is where we ‘raided’ some floor boards from. The brickwork is the original cheese cellar that you can access from the cupboard above it. I’m trying to work out how to incorporate using this into the new kitchen design, possibly as a ‘cool cupboard’. We are just going to cover this hole with particle flooring for the short term.

Some before shots.

This is the main passage, baltic pine boards but some with old stain and glue from where  black and white vinyl tiles had been laid in the doctors waiting room and front entry.

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This is the main bedroom we have created by knocking out a wall. The floor boards in here are a blend of original and reclaimed ones we purchased.

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I decided it would be good thing to stay away from Mr ATMT and our son as they moved the furniture out into the garage. I did a fair amount of the small stuff like all the crystal cabinet and things from the sideboard. Fortunately we should be able to stay in the house, the room we are using, the bathroom, a spare bedroom where most stuff is stored and the kitchen are not targeted areas. We have an outside loo available,  cooking isn’t a problem as we’ve been managing that for over a year anyway. May mean a step ladder into the bathroom for a shower from outside if necessary. I’m sure we will work it out!

Outside

Busy, busy, busy! Summer clearing out, autumn planting, winter planning and some very welcome rain to boot. The old pumpkin vines and tomato plants have been pulled and tossed into an area that we will be planting as a new garden bed. Doesn’t look too pretty at this stage but when the area is top filled with soil they will break down and be a source of nutrient to the plants.

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Not too many pumpkins harvested this year. Tried a new variety (can’t remember what) but I think I’ll go back to good old butternut which are  a good cropping and excellent keeping variety. I still have 2 from last season.IMG_3187 In go the broad beans and brussel sprouts!IMG_3181

The last of the tomatoes, loads of beans and chillies. Blanched and froze most of the beans for use in curries and casseroles throughout the winter.IMG_3159

Divided up the lemon grass and now have four really good size clumps. 2 in a bath tub and 2 in pots. You can see here the new shoots coming out from where I have previously harvested stalks.IMG_3177

Cleaned out the greenhouse and set up some trellis for snow peas to climb on. Any ideas what else I can put in here?IMG_3183Seed sown this weekend is brown onion, broccoli and lettuce. Spring onion, brussel sprout, silver beet and seedlings all in. Lots of jobs done but as always so many more to do.

Living without a kitchen tips.

It is now just over a year since we moved into this ‘new old house’ and everyone seems quite surprised that we have coped so well with little to no dedicated kitchen. This is what we faced, not too bad you think? The old burnt out oven was taken out so we could fit in a fridge. The cupboards absolutely stank (still do to some degree) of old timber, damp and smoke and I wasn’t going to put anything in them! The original lino flooring was taken up and I literally brought in a gurney and pressure washed the room. That was fun!

Kitchen

We bought a couple of sets of shed type shelving for storing most things and  I use an old wardrobe in a spare bedroom as a pantry. So this old kitchen room now only has a fridge, a table and chairs and a camping table with my toy oven on it. The microwave and the toaster I was brave enough to put on the existing bench,  a sink that does have hot water available but if we  need to get cold that has to come from the bathroom. Not sure if I’d follow the same colour scheme when we redo either (bright pillar box red inside the cupboard doors)! What do you think?

How it works

I think we have only used the barbecue about a dozen times and have  fired up the combustion oven twice. Reflecting on this I thought I’d share a tip every now and again for people who either don’t have or don’t need a fully decked out kitchen. This may be due to a whole multitude of reasons, camping, holidaying, touring, renovating, house sharing, faulty appliances and I’m sure there are so many more. I must admit I’ve been re-thinking about what I actually WILL need when designing the new kitchen. I definitely know the oven is a given, it has been driving me nuts with only the little Sunbeam Bake & Grill Benchtop unit, which I have been cheekily calling my ‘toy oven’. Don’t get me wrong I am quite amazed at how well this little unit has performed. It is just annoying that when I make something I have to do it in many small batches or find baking trays and tins that fit in, the standard ones are just too big. Now that I have a few that work well it is a lot better.

Mini Pavs in tin
This is the size tin I am limited to. Ok for just the two of us but when I have to ‘make to take’ it is a challenge.

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My list of absolute must haves to cope more easily are:

  • A little butane gas camping stove. Unbelievable how reliable, efficient and handy this has been. Bought it for $14.00 and refills can be bought at BIGW for $8-$10 for a box of 12. Great for cooking using the wok on, griddle, frying pan, saucepan if needed and anything you normally cook on a gas jet.

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  • Microwave-Don’t use it excessively but it has proven to be really handy for many short-cuts. See my recipe for fluffy microwaved scrambled eggs.
  • Slow cooker-This would be up the top of the list along with the gas stove. I have discovered so many uses for this that I’ve become a bit of an addict looking for new ways to extol its virtues! I actually have 2, a small and a large. Useful for making stock, soups, curries, roasts, quince paste, baked potatoes and pasta sauces.
  • Good basics of toaster, kettle and fridge.
  • Goes without saying that good knives and pots are essential too, I’ve changed my thinking completely with pots and mostly use cast iron ‘fake’ Le Crueset for large sizes and small camp ovens for small. Experience has demonstrated that you don’t get what you pay for all the time when it comes to kitchen ware. As for knives I get kiwi brand from asian supermarkets and they are rippers. I’ve never used knives that are so good, re-sharpen well and are so cheap it doesn’t matter if you lose one or leave it somewhere. Large cleaver style are about $10.00 at Springvale market and small paring and handy veg knives range from $2. I so rarely use my expensive knives now I feel guilty seeing them on the magnetic knife rack.

It is frustrating, it looks bad but it will make it all the sweeter when we eventually get to this part of the house and renovate. Meanwhile I’ll not complain too much about the state of affairs, I can still enjoy some favourites like my fluffy microwaved scrambled eggs. They really are delicious!

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How to make microwaved scrambled eggs.

Ingredients

  • Eggs (2 per person)
  • Milk -1/4 cup per egg
  • Salt & Pepper to season
  • Mustard (1/4 tspn per egg)
  • Parmesan cheese finely grated
  • Parsley finely chopped to garnish.
  • Crack eggs into microwaveable container.
  • Add milk, salt & pepper and mustard and whisk till blended.

Now, slow down a tad and listen:

Using a large spoon, gently turn the mixture working from around the side of bowl ONCE and then across the middle to complete a figure eight, only do this once. BE GENTLE!!!! The aim is to NOT break up the eggs, just to get the uncooked mix more exposed. You should see signs of egg coagulating (thickening/cooking) in some spots.

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Put container back into microwave on half power for 1 minute increments checking after each minute. Do the stirring once pattern again VERY GENTLY. Time will vary depending on number of eggs in bowl. I find for 4 eggs 2 minutes on high then 2 minutes on half power seems to work ok. When there is only a little mix uncooked and mix is still a bit on the wobbly side, let sit while you cook your toast, grate your cheese and chop your parsley. Serve onto toast, sprinkle with parmesan and garnish with the chopped parsley.

Can’t go wrong! These were served with freshly made tomato pickles and they tasted great too.

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Passata method.

I mentioned in my last post that I would upload a PDF document of how I do my passata. I have put this together, hopefully not leaving out anything. I use a manual plastic machine that is made in Italy and it is great for general home production. If you do more that 4 boxes at a time you may want to think about upgrading to an electric processor but I quite like the manual method. If you have any questions or find anything glaringly wrong please let me know.

All that's left from last years processing.
All that’s left from last years processing.

MAREE’S TOMATO PASSATA METHOD

Seasonal glut, love it.

I really didn’t expect to get enough tomatoes to worry about making passata, tomato sauce, maybe drying or making sun dried tomatoes in olive oil  or any other tomato preserve this year. I wasn’t that distressed about that, because when I moved everything out of the only storage cupboard we have (w5$#^&*!!!*) because we pulled out the cupboard, there was still quite a good supply of stored tomato goodies. Pulled in 2 directions, one that I might be saved  the ‘hassle’ (only cause I don’t have the facilities) and the other that I would feel really self defeated if I didn’t store any harvest. I just love the whole concept of ‘squirrelling’ and didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Because we have had a last-minute glut of tomatoes, mainly the san marzano variety, I was quite happy to justify pulling out the gear and ‘doing’ some passata. I can’t remember the last time I bought commercially made tomato products and because I store the passata in small, easily obtainable bottles so there is no waste, it is great as a gift and can even be packed when camping and the stubby (bottle) can go into the recycling after use without feeling guilty.

Passata
Passata machine out, ready for its seasonal use

IMG_3002The glut that I didn’t expect! Mixture of san marzano, big beef, black krim and a couple of kilos of bought romas (purely to make it worthwhile doing a passata batch). I got 5kgs at the Dandenong Market for $5.00 and they look pretty good. Exactly 10kgs of tomatoes to play with. This is much smaller than what I usually do (30-40 kgs) but I just can’t justify that this year. I will create a PDF of a step by step passata making process that I use over the next couple of days. Too many photos for one blog post!

Slow cooker roast chicken.

I stumbled upon a local family a couple of weeks ago who are producing pasture feed chickens using ethical and sustainable practices. Added bonus that they were prepared to deliver to me on their way through to a market. I’m hoping I can encourage staff at school to join me in supporting such a great local businesses.

Out came the slow cooker, I filled the chook cavity with lemon, sage and thyme, patted the outside dry and rubbed some oil into the skin. Into the slow cooker sitting on some scrunched up aluminium foil. Cooked on high for first 2 hours then turned it down to low for remainder of time. I think it was about 10.00am when I put it on. I occasionally basted skin with juices that had escaped.

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Looks a bit sad and sorry doesn’t it?

IMG_3106I roasted some veg in the ‘toy  oven’ and made some roast eggplant, garlic and lemon mash as a bed to put the chicken on. Threw some peas over the lot (Mr ATMT likes peas!) and sat down to it. Not disappointed at all, juicy, flavoursome and so nice knowing I have used a local producer who operates ethically! Highly recommend Mirboo pastured poultry http://www.mirboopasturedpoultry.com.au they do a lot of farmers markets so check it out.

This weeks Lemon Tart

Tonight I tried a recipe from  a blog http://www.lemontart.ca/2010/05/a-proper-lemon-tart-100.html very nice, but I think Alice Medrich’s beats it by a whisker as far as easy to make, tartiness and zing goes. Very nice though!

IMG_3108If you have a great lemon tart recipe please go to my Facebook page and leave details about it there.