Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One Down - Two to Go

We survived the heat today, a rather warm 43C. Adelaide beat us with 45C. It was so hot the train lines buckled and trains had to be canceled. Standing on a hot train platform with hundreds of others waiting for trains that didn't come would not have been fun.

We traveled to Geelong to visit a friend and enroll my son at University. We left early, 6:30am, and only just made it by 10am. It seems everyone left early to beat the heat. Coming home was hot, hot, hot.

The weather forecast has changed again. Tomorrow is now expected to be 43C and windy. Not a good combination when you live in a bushfire prone area. I think we might go off the mountain tomorrow.

Friday is also 43C but not windy. Saturday we get a bit of a break as its only going to be 35C.

So for everyone suffering through the heatwave, keep cool and keep safe.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Belinda's Back to Basics Challenge Update

Sowing seed or Planting

The first tomatoes of the season are picked are sitting on my kitchen bench ripening. The peach tree has a bumper crop and we've been eating the odd peach for a few weeks now. The majority of the crop should ripen over the next week especially with the hot weather coming up.

Planning for The Future
I'm a bit late with the menu plan this week. The public holiday yesterday upset my system a bit. There will be lots of simple meals on the menu this week as the temperatures are going to soar so cooking will be kept to a minimum.

Tuesday - Quiche and Salad
Wednesday - Chicken and Salad
Thursday - Tuna patties and Salad
Friday - Lamb cutlets with veges
Saturday - ??
Sunday - Roast turkey (leftovers to be used for school lunches)

I'll try and bake some biscuits and cakes this afternoon while the oven is on for the quiche to provide snacks for the week.

Working for the Future

Building Community
Both the kids had a bit more of a clean out and are quickly filling the op shop boxes. I'm encouraging them to continue and doing some decluttering myself. All the 'good' stuff is then off to the op shop.

Learn a new Skill
My sewing is progressing with learning how to gather. I've nearly finished a skirt with a bit of gathering in it for a niece. I just need a length of ribbon to finish it off.

A Record Breaker

Apparently we are about to have the dubious honour of breaking a 100 year old record. If we have the top temperatures the weather bureau has forecast it will be the hottest continuous heatwave in 100 years. Great (not!). Today is forecast to be 38C (100F) but that's not part of the record, nope the really hot stuff starts Wednesday. At the moment the prediction is:

Wednesday 41C (105.8F)
Thursday 40C (104F)
Friday 40C
Saturday 40C
Sunday 31C (88F) - the cool change

It doesn't look pretty. The hot weather is sure to increase people's water usage which is something we can't afford. We are in a pretty severe drought. The hot weather also causes a drain on the electricity supply and outages are not uncommon.

I won't enjoy the hot spell but the people I really feel sorry for are the elderly. Lets hope everyone finds somewhere cool. I'm off to bucket more water from the washing machine on to the garden.


Friday, January 23, 2009

A Few Spare Minutes

I had a few spare minutes yesterday, at least I thought I did. Why is it that kids suddenly want your attention the minute you start a project of your own? Its one of those inevitable things.

Anyway I decided to mix up a quick batch of biscuits before making tea. I started and then the "Mum, would you come here?" calls began. My daughter had taken the dogs out for a run and one of them tore her ear and was bleeding. She is a golden labrador so the blood on her light coloured coat was pretty impressive, especially as she had shaken her head and spread it around a bit. Some warm salty water was made up and the wound cleaned up. Back to the baking.

Meanwhile my son was trying to fill in applications for university and couldn't understand the forms "Mum, would you please come and check this?" Lucky mothers are good at multitasking.

Back to the baking. The kitchen filled with the yummy aromas of fresh biscuits. Its a new recipe and I'm impressed. It will definitely be used many times in our house. Its a melt and mix recipe there are few dishes and its very adaptable.

Choc Chip and Fruit Biscuits
1 cup SR flour
1 1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup dried fruit (sultanas or currants work well)
1/2 cup choc chips
125g butter melted
1 egg lightly beaten
1 tablespoon honey

Combine the dry ingredients. Combine the melted butter, honey and egg. Add to the dry ingredients. Mix well and place 2 tablespoons of mixture on a baking tray and press down with a fork. Bake at 190C for 12 minutes.

Swap the fruit and choc chips for any combination you prefer. I used 1 cup sultanas and 1/2 cup dried cranberries - very yummy.

I'll post some photos later.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Sign of the Times

Listening to the radio on the way home today I heard the usual doom and gloom from financial experts. It seems more jobs are destined to go and families will be feeling the pinch more than ever - no surprises there.

What was surprising was one of the boom industries which has come out of our financial woes. It seems cobblers are making a come back. People are now repairing their shoes, handbags etc instead of simply throwing them out. The cobblers advice was simple - buy good quality shoes and you will be more comfortable wearing them and they can be repaired when the time comes. I'm all for creating less waste and using less resources. What a pity it takes financial hardship to make us become less wasteful.

The other side effect of the financial downturn is the popularity of simple cookbooks. People are cooking at home more. Apparently herbs have become best sellers. People are even baking at home. Old fashioned ways have become new fashioned. I'm a little amused that I'm now in fashion and not odd as my daughter tells me.

Photo from Free photos for websites -

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Belinda's Back to Basics Challenge Update

Sowing seed or Planting

Not much gardening has happened this week. The heat has hit so most of the effort has been in keeping things alive. The water from the washing machine is being used on pot plants and anything else that needs it.

Planning for The Future
Started checking what seeds I need to purchase for winter planting.

Menu planning is still happening. My daughter is helping out which is great. The menu features a lot of her favourite meals.

Monday: Warm chicken salad with fresh rolls
Tuesday: Chilli con Carne
Wednesday: Quiche with salad
Thursday: Curry Chicken
Friday: Tacos
Saturday: BBQ sausages with salad
Sunday: leftovers

Working for the Future
More fire prevention work - the gutters are finished, the foliage is cut back, firewood removed from around the house and the verandah cleaned up. The fire hose has been checked and the metal buckets stacked under the verandah. We still need to run the fire pump to check everything was OK but it was checked not so long ago. Now fingers crossed that we won't need to put all this preparation to use.

Building Community
I staffed on a camp for the Girl Guides. We took a group of girls away for the week end and all had a good time.

Learn a new Skill
No new skill.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Day in My Life - 15th January 2008

A Day in My Life

The day started at 3 am when the dogs went beserk to let me know our son had arrived home from his late shift at work. Its nice they get excited when someone comes home but hey I was asleep! I got up and let him in and had a quick chat. Its a mum thing, you're not happy until everyone is home safe and sound.

Back to bed and up again at 9:30 ish. I say 9:30 ish to disguise the fact it was probably closer to 10am. Its school holidays so a great opportunity for a sleep in, besides we all had a late night the night before. Reading blogs and pottering around took up an hour or so and then I thought I had better get showered and dressed. Its a bit slack here at the moment, its not uncommon for me to be the only one up at 10:30.

The dogs wanted their breakfast so I woke my daughter to feed them - they are after all, her dogs. Despite being up half the night, the dogs are full of energy. I'm not so full of energy.

It was off to the local shops next. I needed fuel for my car and I had to pick up the spare tyre as it had been repaired. We've never had so many flat tyres as we have living here. I don't know if its the gravel roads or what it is. A quick trip to the supermarket to buy fruit and vege and milk and home again to feed the hungry hordes.

My son and I made lunch together - focaccias, and then he was off to work. It was time for the dishes (I confess it was last night's). Where does the day go? The weather was reasonable so I had a choice of an outside job or an inside job. The flagging energy levels made the choice an inside job.

There have been a pile of boxes sitting in the playroom waiting to be sorted for weeks (OK, months) so I began the task. In theory we are decluttering and getting rid of stuff. In practice I am married to a hoarder. He still has stuff from his school days which was a looong time ago. Two boxes went to live in the garage, two were designated as rubbish, one to the op shop and there is still one box left of "I really don't know what to do with." It looks better but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Where did all this stuff come from? No matter how much we get rid of there always seems to be more.

It was still lovely outside so I decided to be good and finish cleaning the gutters. There is only one section to do and its the easiest section but for some reason I had been putting it off. Up I went on my trusty ladder and got acquainted with gutters full of leaves and dirt. Four large buckets of leaves later and it was done. A quick play with the dogs and it was time to go inside and make dinner.

We watched a movie as we ate, a bad habit we have fallen into over the school holidays. Then some more decluttering, a couple of episodes of "Angel" while my daughter and I pretended to be cleaning up as we watched. Then bed.

Not exactly an action packed day but it was my day. I hope you had a great day.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Back to School

Free photos for websites -

Its back to school in a few short weeks. For the first time in 12 years we will only have one child at school. Our son finished school last year. My daughter loves Ebay and has purchased most of her books on Ebay. She is selling her old books on Ebay. Purchasing second hand books has saved us hundreds of dollars. I think we have most of her books now.

Last night I let down the hem of her school dress ready for the new year and we covered some of her text books. Things are pretty much organized although there are still a few stationery items to buy. This year will be our daughter's final year at secondary school. I'll miss this ritual of getting ready for school next year. Its become a part of our life.

I'm sure next year will bring new challenges and will be exciting in its own way. That's life isn't it, things change all the time.

To all you families getting ready for school, enjoy it, the school years are over before you know it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hot, hot, hot

Today and tomorrow are going to be hot and windy - not good when you live in a bush fire prone area. We've cleaned up around the house, though there is always more to do. I'm going out to finish off the gutters before the heat sets in.

All our pets will need special care today. Water bowls will be regularly checked, the rabbits will be let out into their yard to enable them access to their burrow. Its nice and cool down there. The dogs will be let into the house for the hottest part of the day and the chooks will get lots of leafy greens, clean water and shade.

The people of the house will venture out in the morning and then stay inside for the heat of the day. Cooking will be kept to a minimum. We'll be out again in the evening when it has cooled down.

The radio will be our constant companion as we listen for bushfire reports.

Fingers crossed that nothing eventful happens today and the fire service has a quiet day. I hope you all have a cool place to escape to in the coming heat.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Belinda's Back to Basics Challenge Update

Sowing seed or Planting

School holidays have taken up lots of time so the garden has been neglected. I'm determined to get back to it this week. The good news is the tomatoes have been flourishing with lots of green fruit on the bushes.

The wicking garden beds are wonderful. I need to water one bed today before the hot weather tomorrow but that will be the first time I have watered this summer. Wicking beds have a plastic lined bottom so they have a reservoir of water in the bottom. Its important the soil in the garden is good for wicking the water up from the reservoir to the plants ie. loose, lots of organic matter, not solid clay. My beds are about 40cm deep, some deeper, and well muched. The soil has remained moist for weeks from the occasional rain. The surrounding non wicking beds are dry.

Planning for The Future
I'll be making more wicking beds for the garden. It takes a bit of work to build them but well worth the effort as it cuts down on the watering significantly.

Menu planing has been working well. I love that I know what I am cooking each night. Its cut down on trips to the shops which is a bonus.

Menu for this week:
Monday: Curried sausages and mashed potato
Tuesday: Tuna patties and salad
Wednesday: Quiche and salad
Thursday: Lamb cutlets
Friday: Lentil burgers
Sat: Lemon fish and chips
Sun: leftovers

Working for the Future
I've cleaned the house gutters (half of them anyway) and cut back foliage close to the house for bush fire protection. We have bought a new long handled lopper which has made the job much easier.

Building Community
Planning for a camp with a local youth organization.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sad News

Sad news
While I was typing away this morning there was a terrible racket coming from the dog yard. The puppy had a chook pinned down and it was objecting in a most vocal way. The chook was released the dog locked up and then I noticed another chook which had been killed. The chooks and the dogs had been living together for awhile and although there had been minor skirmishes everything had seemed to have settled down. Our last dog had lived with the chooks for years with no major problems and Daisy the labrador loves the chooks. She even lets them curl up with her for a sleep. Amber, the pup, wants to play and the chooks are not robust enough to play with her. Sadly one chook paid the ultimate price and the others will now have to be locked up for their own safety. Its a big chook house but not the same as being able to roam around amongst the bushes in a much larger yard. We will have to see if we can provide the chooks with a safe run where Amber can't get them.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Green/frugal cleaning

I'm not a big fan of cleaning the house but its one of those 'you just have to do it' tasks. We've been using 'green' cleaners for quite a few years. I've experimented with a few cleaners and have settled with some easy options that seem to work well. All are very simple and very cheap. I rarely venture down the cleaning isle of the supermarket and the laundry cupboard isn't filled with numerous toxic cleaners. We still use a few commercial cleaners but I'm slowly finding alternatives.

Cleaning the bathroom
The bath, shower and basin are all cleaned with bicarbonate of soda and a bit of a scrub. The shower is then sprayed with vinegar and left for 20 minutes or so. Vinegar is a mild disinfectant. The vinegar smell quickly disappears. The bicarb removes soap scum from glass really well.

Soda water (the cheap stuff is fine) works really well for glass. Just spray and wipe for a great shine. A litre bottle cost about $1 and lasts for ages. Just make sure you are buying unsweetened soda water.

Dusting is done with an old cotton rag and soda water. Test the soda water on a small area before spraying on your furniture just in case but I've never found any problems.

An update on my dish washing soap.
I made some lemon scented coconut oil soap for dish washing. After using it for a month or so it seems to be a good thing. It washes the dishes well without making them overly slippery as the Velvet soap did. The lemon scent is mild but pleasant. The Velvet soap made the cups in particular smell like Velvet soap so they needed to be rinsed well. The soap doesn't bubble much but bubbles don't clean dishes so that is OK. Glasses absolutely sparkle after using this soap. Even the kids noticed the sparkly glasses and wanted to know what I had done. Overall I'm quite happy with my soap and will make another batch. Lemon is a mild disinfectant and smells great but you could use any essential oil you prefer or none if you wish.

Fabric softener - a simple test.
When I last washed the towels, I washed one set with commercial fabric softener and the other using white vinegar as the fabric softener. My very technical test (not) was to ask my family which set felt softer. It was pretty hard to tell the difference - the vinegar won but not by much. Vinegar however is heaps cheaper. But who wants towels that smell like vinegar? They don't. You can smell the vinegar a little when the towels are wet but once they have been dried there is no smell. You could add lavender oil to the vinegar and then your washing will smell wonderful.

On the rare occasion that I do iron the only ironing aid I use is a spray bottle of water. It works well and is virtually free. Ironing clothes while a little damp makes the job much easier, Just remember to make sure clothes are completely dry before putting them away.

Room for improvement
I still buy commercial disinfectant. I've experimented with a few green alternatives but haven't found anything I like as of yet. We use commercial detergent to wash the floors and a green commercial laundry powder. That can be my next challenge - find some green, frugal alternatives to commercial disinfectant. I'll let you know how I go.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Another bag - patchwork this time.

Another bag finished! This one is for me. It is padded and lined and will be perfect to keep my latest knitting project in. It is made with some small patchwork squares I already had cut out waiting for a project. I seem to be in a bag sewing faze. On my sewing table is a shopping tote for me to be finished and another for my daughter. She approves of this one as she chose the fabric, its bright pink with black skulls. I'm hoping to make a bag out of an old pair of jeans as well, and there is the pattern my daughter and I found on the internet that she likes for a shoulder bag and the large tote with cord handles I have the pattern for and, and, and ...

Luckily I have heaps of fabric to use up. Tomorrow we are off to the craft stores to buy more fabric and some beads, because you can never have too much fabric (especially if its on special).

As the sun shone yesterday lots of washing was done (it never seems to end) and the dogs had a bath. Daisy, the Labrador, now looks shiny and glows in the sunlight. Mud actually ran down her legs when we washed her. She was one dirty dog. Daisy loves rolling in the dirt and wading through the pond. For one afternoon she was clean and smelt lovely - I'm sure it won't last.

Amber, our new puppy, didn't like the idea of a bath. Amber is only 8 months old, she was our daughter's Christmas present though we did get her a month or so before Christmas. Amber is huge, think small horse size. She just keeps growing. We just wet Amber down a bit and played with the water with her (its OK its tank water). Hopefully next time she will be happier to have a bath.

The twelve days of Christmas finished yesterday so we packed away the last of the Christmas decorations. Why does it always seem to take longer packing them up than getting them out? Before we know it Easter will be here. I've already seen Easter eggs in the shops.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Washing Day

Today's Monday, today's Monday
Monday is washing day
Is ev'rybodyhappy?
You bet your life we are.

Well, actually today is Tuesday,but yesterday was Monday and washing day. The sun shone so it was a great day to catch up on the washing (sometimes I wonder what happened to the days that a sunny day meant a picnic or a walk in forest). The beds were stripped, the sheets washed and the blankets hung out in the sunshine to air out. I love the smell of sheets hung out in the sunshine. There is nothing quite like it.

Traditionally, in Australia, washing is hung outside. I was amazed to discover that places in America have made washing lines illegal forcing people to use dryers. Sunshine is free, makes the clothes smell great and doesn't contribute to global warming. I have two clothes lines, one is the traditional "Hills Hoist" line out the back and the other is a large clothes airer on wheels which I usually have in the sunshine on the paving. If it looks like rain it can be simply wheeled under cover under the verandah.

Under the washing line out the back is a pond. Originally it had fish in it but now it is the home for the local frogs. Right now it is full of wiggly tadpoles. In a few weeks the tadpoles will be frogs and the croaking will begin. The frogs get so loud we have to turn the TV up to hear it over the croaking!

Monday is also menu planning day so for this week we are having:

Monday: Curried beef with rice

Tuesday: Chilli con Carne

Wednesday: Fried rice

Thursday: Chicken Enchiladas

Friday: Fettuccine Carbonara

Saturday: Curry, Honey, Mustard Chicken with potato bake

Sunday: going out

Now I just have to stick to the plan!

Friday, January 2, 2009


Recently, my husband and I took a few days off and went camping at Bright, a small town in Victoria. We left the kids at home, one was working and the other said she would rather stay at home and paint the window frames than come with us. Actually she said she would rather do almost anything than come with us but the painting the window thing was was what we settled on. No, its not slave labour, she and a friend are painting the windows and we are paying.

It felt strange leaving without the kids but we quickly got over that and had a great time, just the two of us. We were a tad worried what the windows would look like when we got home.

We camped right on Morses Creek, a beautiful clear creek where you can see the fish sitting on the bottom. We visited the local attractions and rode our bikes along the rail trail. We did nothing much and had a great time.

The Ovens River flowing through Bright.

Camping on Morses Creek.

Bridge over the Ovens River.

The war memorial in the center of Bright.

And what did the paint job look like when we got home? Thankfully the girls did a great job.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

Wow, what happened to 2008? 2009 has already begun. What will this year bring? Listening to the radio on the way home today I heard various predictions for 2009. Financial analysts were saying the worst is over, interest rates are expected to fall. Most of the predictions involved sport, most of the callers were men so that sort of explains the fascination with sport.

I haven't made any new year resolutions because I'm not ready for 2008 to end just yet never mind 2009 to begin.

We started the year with a family outing to Werribee Free Range Zoo. I wish all zoos were like this. The animals are in as natural
as possible enclosures. The giraffes, zebras, antelopes and rhinos are in an enormous enclosure on a huge river flat. This one enclosure is twice the size of Melbourne Zoo. I'll post some photos as soon as some one takes them off the camera.

Update: the photos have been liberated from the camera by my husband (he has a much better camera than me so the photo quality of the shots below are a bit above my usual standard. The fact that he takes the time to get things in focus (unlike me) also helps.

Zebras in the large savanah enclosure.

You wouldn't want to mess with this young lady, at just under 2000kgs and with a large horn she pretty much does what she want to.

Can you see his tongue?
Its 42cm long and mighty useful for getting to those tasty leaves.

Power and grace in one golden brown package.

It was a lovely day and a good way to catch up with extended family. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and 2009 is kind to you.