Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Washing Fruit and Vegetables

There is a Chinese expression along the lines of "you never know how many hands have touched your food".

For this very reason I am a little obsessive about washing our fruit and vegetables.

Soursops and fujis (or possibly fejoas drying - neither of us could work out what the vendor was saying)
Certainly, we shop at the markets where most sellers are the growers, and sell only a handful of items.  But, even there you never know what growing or hygiene practices your produce has met with along the way.

So, I wash everything when I get it home from the markets.

Kang-kong, local mandarins and papaya.
Generally, I use a single sink of water for two washes.  The first wash will be for a food you eat whole.  The second for something, say like Papaya, where you will cut the skin off before eating but I don't want contamination from the outside getting on inside when I cut and peel it.

Longons, bok-choy and custard apples.

Then I set it all out on clean tea-towels on the benches to get thoroughly dry before it goes into bowls and the crisper in the fridge.  Ensuring your produce is fully dry is essential if you want it to last through the week.
White mangosteens and dragon fruits.
I can then breath easy knowing that when anyone grabs a piece of fruit out of the fridge it has been washed!

Monday, January 30, 2012

On a rainy sunday...

It is best to get plenty of rest while your people go to the market to get fresh fruit and vegetables.

Eat Cake. 

And get on with a current craft project.  192 squares finally cut and the quilt laid out.

Go to evening church service and have supper - which means you only need to take a plate to share and you don't have to cook when you get home.  Also, that Ginger is so worn out by keeping up with the bigger kids (and they are all bigger than her) that she just falls into bed leaving you to get on with the week's ironing and good TV watching (anyone else watch the great detective program Zen on ABC1?).

Where did last week go?  I had so many intentions of blogging much more regularly this year (I even instituted 5am wake-ups as a way of managing it) but last week just got away from me.  Mr Provincial ended up with a four day long weekend thanks to the Australia Day public holiday and a generous CO so we had sleep-ins (thank you Ginger!) and tackled some jobs around the house in the morning hours when I would normally blog.  Also had visits to the midwife and that delightful later pregnancy glucose tolerance test.  Baby boy is doing well, with a strong heartbeat and already seems to be head down - such a different pregnancy to his sister's:). 

Simplicity Sand Cake

This recipe was given to me by an older lady at our last church.  It falls into that delightful category of beat and bake cakes.  I make it pretty frequently.

1 cup Self-raising flour
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour
3/4 cup sugar
125g butter softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

Place all the above ingredients in a bowl and beat for 6 minutes.  Bake in a ring tin at 175 degrees for about 30 minutes.

We like to eat our cake fresh and dusted with vanilla icing sugar.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rosewater and Lemon Cheesecake

I made a cheesecake on Friday.

Everything that could go wrong went wrong with the making.  Not so the eating.  The eating was very good.

So, what happened?

1 kg of cream cheese turns out to be much more expensive than I had anticipated - about $16 for 1 kg.  I ended up buying homebrand for about $10.

The food processor blade broke on both sides trying to blend the semi-solid cream cheese.

The cake had to be baked in a water bath and it turns out that we don't have a baking tray big enough to contain our large round cake tin.  I found that out after I had already baked the cake base in said large round cake tin.

I thought I would be very clever and substitute our giant square cake tin (from Ginger's baptism) for the baking tray.  Turns out the cake tin leaks - a lot.  So there was boiling water all through the oven and all over the floor.

I persevered though, topping up the water with freshly boiled water every ten minutes for the 90 minute cooking time.  I hadn't accounted for what would happen when I had to take the whole thing out of the oven and that steady stream of boiling water became a torrent.  It may have involved some yelling at Ginger to "get out of the kitchen.  Mummy is not cross but it is not safe in here at the moment."  and a slightly scalded leg (nothing aloe vera wasn't able to fix).

And, the couple we went to dinner with, for whom I had baked the cake.  Well, it turns out she is a coeliac and couldn't eat it anyway.

On the plus side, it did taste good.  Very good.

Lemon and Rosewater Cheesecake

From We Love Food

200g gingernut biscuits
40g unsalted butter, melted
1kg cream cheese
240g caster sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp of vanilla extract
2 tsp rosewater (optional)
4 eggs, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.  Grease a round 23cm spring-form.  Place the tin on a large sheet of foil and press it up the outsides of the tin to seal.  Repeat the process so it is double-wrapped.

Place the biscuits and melted butter in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.  Spoon the biscuit mix into the base of the tin and press to form an even layer.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden and fragrant.  Set aside to cool.

Blend the cream cheese in a clean food processor until smooth.  Add the sugar, lemon juice and zest, vanilla and rosewater and blend until combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, while the processor is still going.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.  Place the tin in a deep baking tray on top of a cake cooling rack and pour in enough hot water to come about 2.5cm up the side of the tin.  Bake for 1-11/2 hours, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and take the tin out of the water removing the tinfoil immediately.  Allow the cheesecake to cool completely in the tin.  This will stop the base from going soggy.  Carefully remove the cheesecake, lightly wrap in cling-wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Friday, January 20, 2012

On My Mind - Mending

On my mind this Friday morning is mending.  Three of my four delicates bags suffered catastrophic holes in the week leading up to us leaving Queensland.  The consequence being that they dispel your 'delicates' mid wash. 

They have given us good service, as all have been in use since I left home six years ago.  Initially I thought I would just replace them when I got up here.  But yesterday I got to thinking - I put my Nanna hat on - that my Grandmothers' certainly wouldn't have thrown out something as mundane and prosaic as a delicates bag just because of a few holes; they would have mended them.  So, I did just that.  I stitched back up the holes.  Some of these bags have been mended multiple times now so they don't look pretty, but really who sees your delicates bags except you!  They will continue to serve their function just a while longer, and in the meantime that is money in the bank for us.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: Loving Darwin

Joining Like Mother, Like Daughter for this Thursday tradition.


This is our one and only 'souvenir' from our trip to Singapore this December/January.  Singapore was hosting the Elephant Parade - a fundraiser for an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.  Basically, they get artists to paint large elephant sculptures for auction, and make a certain number of replicas in smaller sizes for sale.  Our little elephant is called Blossom.

The large elephants could be seen all over Singapore, but we bought our small one from Tang's department store. Tang's is a Singapore institution.  It was set up in the 1920's by Mr Tang, the son of Presbyterian missionaries.  The store still retains its Christian origins today.  In shopping mad Singapore it was just about the only major shop closed for Christmas, and they actually had bible verses emblazoned across the shop Christmas display and on the Christmas shopping bags.  Can you imagine that in other parts of the world?  I can't imagine a major department store doing that here in Australia.


In case you can't tell it is a candle holder - as in shine as a light in the world!
Oh boy, am I loving Darwin.

It might be stinking rotten hot.  But, are the people we are meeting ever making up for that.

We have more social commitments coming up in the next couple of weeks than we have ever had in any other posting.  I have too many activities I want to attend with Ginger for days in the week - choices will have to be made, as will they with two invites to fortnightly coffee catch-ups which clash. 

I met my lovely neighbour on Sunday (a gorgeous girl from Indiana).  Less than an hour later she popped round to ask me to come over for supper.  Oh, and she and her daughter are making us brownies when DHA fixes their oven:) - her 5 year old informed me of that, not her Mum.

We tried out our new church on Sunday.  And, we are blessed they have a creche.  An Anglican church with a creche!  Unheard of in Australia in this era of ageing church congregations. And, after some persuasion Ginger agreed to stay in - I heard my first sermon in over a year.  She came out proudly bearing her craft project and then went off to play with the other pre-schoolers.  All ten of them, and half the congregation is down south for the holidays; at our previous church she was the only pre-schooler.  She had a fantastic time.

Mr Provincial found a friend in the congregation who he went through military college with.  His wife is also expecting a baby this year.  We have a dinner arrangement for Saturday.
I am feeling truly blessed.  This is by far the most positive start to a posting we have had.  And, we have done four postings in four different states in five years!


Ginger has taken a serious liking to her Father's favourite book The World Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft.  At first I thought it was just because her Dad was looking at it, but in the days subsequent to me taking these photographs she has asked me to take it off the shelf for her to look at several times.  I wonder what the appeal is?


I am struggling to come up with homemade healthy snacks for all our morning teas.  I can bake - but I have my doubts about how healthy the regular addition of a piece of cake to our days is.  I thought I had hit the nail on the head with a recipe from the CSIRO Wellbeing Book for Kids for Cheesy Vegie Muffins.  No nasties in these and plenty of carrot and zucchini.  Only thing, Ginger took one bite, spat it into her bib and flatly refused to eat any more.  Oh well, at least Mr Provincial and I like them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chilli Heat

Just in case any of you do anything as silly as I did yesterday and rub your face after cutting a chilli, I have some advice.  Put aloe vera gel on the burnt spots - it is effective in soothing the burn away.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Peace and Plenty

Do you have certain comfort reads that you return to year after year?  For me, one of those is Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  So, when I saw her new book Peace and Plenty at the local discount bookshop I didn't hesitate to pick it up.  I must admit that as I started to read I did wonder if I should have taken a slightly closer look.

In Peace and Plenty Sarah takes her readers on a journey for dealing with their own fiscal crisis resulting from today's economic woes.  As in all her books she weaves her advice with stories from her life and excerpts from magazines (particularly Depression era) and books.  Don't get me wrong, there is great advice here for someone whose financial security is gone - it just wasn't that relevant to my personal financial situation.  

In her own gentle way Sarah introduces basic money management tools like budgeting and the envelope system - always a good refresher to read about those.  For me though, the book came into its own in the final two chapters.  Here was something I could get my teeth into.  What follows are some of my favourite points.

She uses Jan Struther's Mrs Miniver (one of my favourite books) to show that zest for life makes everyone feel better.  She recounts:
Kay Miniver was the woman I needed in my life.  Many of you already know her from Greer Garson's stunning performance; or maybe you haven't yet made the lady's acquaintance.  Do so as soon as possible.  You are in for such a treat.  But remember that you want to go as far back as you can when retracing steps, whether it it's a money choice or a movie's origins.  The heart of the matter is always the original source.

And on hoarding:
What is hoarding all about?
Fear.  False evidence appearing real.  Fear that there won't be enough.  But enough of what?  Bedsheets?  Gucci bags? Jimmy Choo shoes?  Wedgewood? Dove Beauty Moisture Bath?  Campbell's Chunky Chicken soup?
....if we realise these hoarding urges are speaking to something very important, even crucial to us - financial security - then we will respect our desires to be safe, but channel them differently.  We can explore what it feels like to feel safe, such as holding on to our cash instead of stocking Noah's Ark.
....I know this sounds elementary, but I've taught myself to say "" before making a purchase.

On the need to create:
I think the great secret that needleworkers know is that when other people see that our hands are busy, they often give us a few moments' grace from their requests.  We are granted the pause that refreshes and restores.  What the rest of the world doesn't realise (and we shall never tell) that when our hands are busy, our minds can rest.

On organisation:
I have a theory about feeling protected and prepared.  We assign money that job, and obviously it does it well.  When money isn't what we've got to exchange, however, we need the currency of ingenuity and planning.  Every day we need to be prepared in small ways as well as large, and every day we find new wants and needs that can be satisfied through our creativity and organisation.

Finally, on 'spring cleaning' - which Sarah asserts does not have to wait for spring.  She suggests plenty of pre-planning:
When I approach a homemaking project this way, it feels like play; I have so much fun to look forward to, and planning becomes a well-spent interlude - a contentment pursuit of the highest order.

Peace and Plenty is a great New Year read.  Just the sort of book I like to read when my calender is on its first new page and I have the promise of a whole new year ahead with, as Anne Shirley would say "no mistakes in it".



Monday, January 16, 2012

Sunday Yumminess

Despite the heat up here we haven't really got away from our tradition of a little Sunday yumminess with afternoon tea (or in Mr Provincial's case coffee).

Yesterday I tweaked a friend's Date Loaf recipe and I must say I am pleased with the moist result.  And, it is practically healthy with no sugar in the recipe.  Spread a little butter on a slice for an extra ray of sunshine.

Date Loaf

250g dates, chopped in half
50g butter
1 tsp bi-carbonate of soda
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 3/4 cups self-raising flour
1 egg

Boil first four ingredients for two minutes.  Cool and add flour and egg.  Pour into a loaf tin and bake at 170 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} - Darwin Edition

Ah, it is lovely to be settled down into our new posting location of Darwin.  It is meant to be the wet season but we have had no rain as yet.  We have been in our house a week now and we got rid of the last boxes yesterday, along with a few items to the tip and and a couple of boxes of belongings to the charity shop.  

Our house here in Darwin is much nicer than we thought was possible for a Defence House and we feel like we have made a lot of progress over the last week in getting everything into place.  It is a bit tighter squeeze with the new baby on the way and us losing the spare room (aka dumping ground) and so we have a pile of stuff to sell on Ebay of the next couple of months.  It feels good to start the new year with a clean out though!

So, onto Like Mother, Like Daughter's {Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} - I am so excited to be able to join in again.

Lovely tropical flowers (the variety of which I have no idea) picked up last weekend at Parap Markets.  We also got the most amazing tropical fruit - the papaya was to die for.  Unfortunately all eaten by now, so no photos this week!


To be at the stage of being able to primp some corners of my home, the hard slog of unpacking is over.


Ginger has become quite the little madam about getting dressed in the morning.  We have about five changes of outfit and lots of tears and squealing!  This morning she wanted to put her dress on all by herself - as you can see she hasn't worked out the armholes, the whole ensemble is inside out and she still has her pj shorts on.


There is, cough, a certain room in the house which is looking a little less polished than the others.  Our baby boy's room.  All I can say is he better hold his horses - Mummy and Daddy are working on it.  Now if we could only find somewhere to put all Ginger's toys.  And, I could get round to ironing that paper I salvaged from the packing boxes for Ginger's painting......