Friday, August 31, 2012

Late winter snow in Robertson

It snowed late yesterday in Robertson. Its been two years since we've had a good dump of snow and then it didn't stick. These photos show that it lasted all night. By 8am it was melting in earnest with a wonderful crackling sound. Being quite inexperienced with snow I was worried it would burn off my garden like a heavy frost would but everything is looking well.

I chided Howard to get up early this morning. I didn't think much of his, I know it snowed I saw it last night. I thought that lacked romance and a sense of childish wonder. Snow is wonderful. It shines like crsytal and the magnificence of nature. Not to be missed.
But I'm greedy and hope for more snow not to be content with what one night and morning. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Spring flowers

 Spring is obvious everywhere in my garden. Here are a few cheerful pictures for you.
A giant daffodil in the early morning sunshine.
 A mixed bunch of daffodils for my desk this week.
This is the first of my two rhododendrons to flower.
The second tree has very pale pink flowers which will appear when these are finished.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Garden inspired by Monet

Monet's garden in Giverny, France is a cascade of colour, elegance and delight.  When we visited in the Autumn of 2010 I was overwelmed to be in such a famous garden, to see the mix of plants, the colours and the water lilies. I loved the weeping willows over the Japanese bridges.

It wasn't until much later when I realised the gift shop with the harried staff and the obnoxious tourist was actually the gallery where Monet painted the water lily series. I wish I had been able to stand and absorb that reality. But I will go back and I will do exactly that.

When we returned home I began to work over the front garden. Dominated by some big trees the garden was just a lawn, partly failing under heavy shade.

I chose a colour scheme of blue and yellow as Monet did. I didn't have any experience starting from scratch in a garden. I knew I needed a little structure, a layering of heights.  But I didn't really know which plants to put in. So I just did my best.

Lavender was an obvious choice. I discovered bue Marguerites which have done very well.  Daffodils for yellow in spring. Barely two years on the bones are working.

Over the winter grass encroached on the bed I built along the inside of the fence.  Most of the pansies have died off.  Yesterday I headed out to weed thinking it would be a really onerous task.

Surprisingly the weeds and grass all pulled out easily. The lavender and Marguerites have established well. The daffodils are blooming and the ranunculas are popping up.  Next week I will replace the annual flowers in time for the start of spring.

For now here are some before and after pictures as I weeded and mulched. Today Howard pulled out a dead pine which had been lovely but closed off one corner of the garden. It died back and didn't recover or we would have left it. We also pruned some other plants which were blocking the path so the lawn follows a lovely 'C' shape, winding through the garden.








Ash tree blossoms are so unique

My Ash is in flower. The blossoms are in flower and divine. The long stringy blossoms give the whole tree a pink appearance.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Stuffed portobello mushroom

In my constant search for quick, easy, tasty and healthy meals to cook I discovered large portobello mushrooms in stock at the supermarket today.

Here are my thoughts on a tasty way to stuff them.

Preheat the oven to about 200 celcius.
Remove the stems from the mushroom cups. Place in a shallow casserole dish.  Splash balsamic vinegar over the mushrooms and place in the oven.

Heat a fry pan on the stove top. Throw in a small dab of butter.

When the butter is melted add the following:
grated carrot
grated zucchini
sliced sun dried tomatoes
mixed nuts and seeds
handful sultanas
baby spinach
thinly sliced tofu nuggets (optional)

Put a lid over the top until cooked through. Stir occasionally to make sure its not sticking.

When the mushrooms are cooked, place spoonfuls of the vegie mix on top with some small cubes of feta. Put back in the oven for a few minutes until warmed through. The feta won't melt but will soften a little.

I think this recipe has a good mix of vegetables and protein.  Its warm but not heavy. There's a bit of preparation in the grating but you don't have to watch it carefully when cooking. Definately doable after beng at work all day. It looks impressive, like something you'd be served at a fancy restaurant.

I hope you give it a go.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cheesy zucchini slice

Tonight I made a zucchini slice for a tasty, healthy packed lunch tomorrow.

Zucchini slice is one of the easiest things to make and there are many recipes out there. The truth is you don't really need a recipe. Once you've made it a few times you'll find that you can toss instructions aside and just throw it all together.

I used besan flour for this one. Besan or gram flour is made from chick peas and can be found in delis or Indian grocery shops.  Bonus - gluten free and high protein for flour.

And its not just zucchini slice. It can be, but I usually add a few other grated or finely chopped vegies. Choose from zucchini, carrot, corn kernels, capsicum, shallots, tomatoes, celery.

Despite my protestations that you don't need one, here's the recipe.

1 cup self raising flour (option - besan flour plus two teaspoons baking powder)
2 medium zucchini, grated
1 carrot, grated
corn kernels (scrape straight off a cob and save all the additives)
4 eggs
1/2 cup cheese, grated
extra cheese and parsley for topping

Put flour, grated vegetables and cheese in a mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl beat eggs with a little water.
Mix eggs into the flour and vegies until thoroughly wet through.
Prepare a baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Pour mix into the baking dish and spread evenly. Top with grated cheese (parmesan or romano will work well) and sprinkle with finely chopped parsley.
Bake until firm and golden brown.

Slice up and serve with green salad and sliced almonds.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

5 things Wednesday: ways to unwind after work

Work is challenging at the moment. Its always busy but there seem to be many looming deadlines right now. I got home late and feel quite wired up.

That has motivated me to actively think about ways to unwind. The simple answer woud be to meditate but who can easily sit still after a day on the go, really. Not me.  I'm going to recommend 5 ways to unwind gradually and gently.

1. Have a light, easy but nutritious dinner.
All the way driving home I thought of delicious but elaborate choices for dinner. Realistically I did not have the energy for anything complicated or the desire to spend long cooking after arriving home at 7pm. So mushrooms on toast with baby spinach, rocket, walnuts and a little haloumi alongside a poached egg hit the spot. Its mid week and there's work tomorrow so water not wine is the order of the day. I have to get up and go quickly in the morning. Tonight is about nurturing.

2. Light candles
Candles are so relaxing. The ambiant light discourages lots of running around doing housework. I have a rose scented soy candle so I have set that melting too to give a lovely spring fragrance to the house.

3. Watch something soothing, listen to music and read a book.
After dinner put on a favourite show that is soothing and comforting. No raucous laughter or action. Just something lovely. As you start to unwind, you can swap the show for music. When feeling a little calmer pick up a book and allow yourself time to sit and read.

4. Soak your feet
Pamper yourself while reading. I like to soak my feet in a basin of hot water with a generous splash of tea tree oil. The oil is antiseptic which is good and the combination seems to just wash away the tension. I can't explain it but I highly recommend trying it.

5. Spend a few minutes in a meditative mood before bed.
Now that you are unwinding, are fed, your senses have been soothed with music and candles you are ready to let go of the day. Take a journal or a notepad and list 10 things you love about life.

If you will excuse me now I need to go take my own advice. I have had dinner, candles are on as is some light jazz so my foot soak and list writing await.

I'd love to know what simple steps you take to let go of the day. Please leave me a comment.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gluten free fritter recipe

Today I suddenly remembered a recipe I haven't made for a long time. The memory was sparked by a conversation with a friend about gluten free living.

This is super simple, super yummy.  A quick recipe with very few ingredients. I do not need t eat gluten free as it doesn't have any adverse effect on me.  I do believe however in variety and not overdoing wheat.  I currently have wheat, spelt, rye, buckwheat and besan flour.  Quinoa (pronounded keenwa) flour is good too.

I ate four of these cottage cheese fritters for dinner and have plenty of left overs for tomorrow.  This fritter recipe will work equally well for breakfast, lunch or a light dinner.

Cottage cheese fritters with green salad from my garden

Cottage Cheese Fritters

Makes about 14

Vermicelli rice noodles, 1 block cooked
cottage cheese, 250g tub
1 egg
1 tablespoon gluten free flour: buckwheat or besan (chickpea) flour
finely chopped shallots or celery

Drain vermicelli and mix with all other ingredients.  Stir heaped tablespoons onto a hot, lightly oiled fry pan.  Turn when underside is browned.  Continue to cook until firm and both sides are brown.

Feel free to add herbs or spices to taste. Personally I prefer to keep them simple, relying on the shallots or celery for flavour. They are light and cheesy.

I do hope you enjoy this recipe.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

More Sunday gardening

Its cold at my house today with a brisk Southerly wind whistling across the garden. I have done so much gardening lately but its really never enough, there's always more to do. I have used some soil from my big pile but there is still so much to move. We need to topdress and reseed the lawn. The front garden is looking a little overgrown too. So I plunged out into the back yard again. As a resut I finally finished weeding and mulching the vegie garden.

From now on its maintenance and planting seeds and seedlings when the time is right.

This was the last area I had to finish.  I weeded then mulched with newspaper and lucerne hay. This wasn't the best day for it as the August winds have arrived right on time. But I was so keen to get it finished I put up with the wind and got it done.  A lovely little steer came to visit me across the back fence and I resisted the urge to share my lucerne with him. Benny carried on in a ridiculous way but the cow just watched calmly.
This part of the garden didn't take too long so I managed to complete some more tasks. I have turned the compost, added scaps, a bucket of soil, grass clippings and molasses.
I replanted some ferns that my chookie girls had dug up. They are so rough on everything.

I built a coldframe in the vegie garden. I'm having trouble getting seeds to germinate so I'm experimenting. Its a bit messy looking but I have used old pavers and landscaping blocks to build it up. Theoretically the thermal mass in the blocks and the glass window should heat up the space inside and help my seeds. The window is on a slope even though it doesn't look it here.

I have put a tray of beetroot seeds under the glass. I planted them a few weeks back: a couple have germinated already, there are two or three tiny, weeny leaves, but most haven't. They all need a boost.

I am hoping this will work. I have two other trays of seeds outside the coldframe so I can compare.

Today finally I got a good picture of my three darling chookie girls. They stood still long enough for me to snap this, in focus photo. Their attention was well and truly devoted to their first view of a cat. My Lily dashed through the back door and into the garden quicker than I could stop her. She wasn't interested in the chickens and with the dogs hot on her tail she couldn't have got near them. They seemed to think caution was the best approach and watched her keenly until I took her back inside.

The dogs spent several hours running around so now they're tuckered out. I could do with a nap myself.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Seeds all ready for planting

A new order of vegetable, herb and flower seeds arrived in the post today.

I have gone through my old seeds, throw out most of the out of date ones as well as any damp or snail chewed packets.

My seed packets are all arranged neatly in clear plastic boxes in order. One box for A-J and the other for K-Z. Now I can keep track of what I have which is mostly beetroot seeds!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A pretty bouquet of pansies

Today I met the little girl who recently moved in next door.

She told me she is changing her name to Sparks. There's a fairy reference there I don't get. Perhaps you can enlighten me?

She dashed off to pick me a bouquet of flowers: lavender, sea spray daisies and pansies.

I've arranged them in a tea cup.

Don't they look sweet. Aren't I lucky? It was a special moment to share.


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