Rediscovering the lost (to me) art of the Library

Over the weekend my Dad recounted a little story from my childhood to Pete; the first readers I brought home from school when I was little were twice handed to Dad with a very sincere request for him to read to me. He didn’t think anything of it until he found, by talking to my teacher, that I was supposed to be reading to him as part of my homework! Needless to say, I didn’t get away with that trick any longer, and my Dad was certain to get me to read to him every night, and would from then on only read with me – two pages from me for every one he read out.

That, and his own interest in the written and spoken word bred a love of reading into me that took me through awkward primary school years, where a teacher reiterated a request for reading to be left for English and not Maths, and high school classes where I took every English course I could. I still wish I could have done ESL as well as the other two streams.

All of those years, and for any time I spend on public transport, I’ve kept a book in my bag to keep myself occupied. Lately it’s been a Kindle, my old faithful replaced last year by a Paperwhite when it stopped displaying anything but the charging screen.

All of these years, buying books from eBay, Book Depository, the lival secondhand book shop, downloading from Amazon – one might imagine my library membership would have been well excercised!

Nope. Apparently I completely forgot about the principle of the public library system.

Pete and I were walking with Olivia down the main street on Saturday, having just visited the grocer where he organises a fruit delivery for his work. I’d mentioned joining the library again when I was taking Olivia to our mums and babies group but was distracted on the day I’d planned to and never quite got back around to it. We wandered up to the counter and checked to see if I was still a member. I signed up when I was a kid but dropped off of the system when they upgraded, so I arranged a new membership. The rules have changed so much! You can have up to 100 items out, and rather than a local network of five libraries, the whole state shares resources and books can be dropped off and transferred to and from any location!

Honestly, you’d think I’d just discovered a new planet the way I’m going on but it was pretty exciting to peruse the cooking section and realise I can try all of the books and then buy any that I find particularly indispensable, instead of thinking that something looks good only to find I never use it (sorry Jamie’s Comfort Food, you’re gorgeous but Whole Food Slow Cooked speaks to me).

Anyway, Pete had to take our fruit and vegetables back to the car so we could carry Olivia and all of the books I borrowed. I’ve got them for a month so I started with the smallest, a little handbook called Fermentation for Beginners; it explains the roots and basic science of fermentation, then covers basic recipes from sourdough and pickles to kvass. It’s inspired me to try starting sourdough (again, I’ve never quite been able to get into the swing of it and keep up) and I’ve already decided I’d like my own copy in paperback because it seems like a really handy little book to keep around.

Hopefully we can go back again soon when we have a bit more time and I can check out the gardening section since we didn’t see much beyond the baby section (I grabbed a book on baby sign language) and the cooking section (as much as I could carry down the street without hurting myself). I can’t believe I haven’t been taking advantage of the library for so long – free books!

Does anyone have any book recommendations? I’d love some suggestions of things to look out for!

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Harvest Monday

My harvest this weekend was a bit of a downer – Konrad decided he’s interested in gardening again.

When he was younger, and only half grown, he developed an enjoyment of getting in to garden beds. At that stage, he’d do a bit of damage but he was mostly after eggs that the chickens had laid in clutches that they were hiding from him. Last Friday we had some appointments to go to and when we got home it was to find that one of our wicking beds had been attacked. Initially I thought it was just the wild weather, but seeing as though plants were pulled out roots and all, some just with snapped branches ..it doesn’t seem very likely. Hopefully they’ll be able to recover a bit before Spring rolls around so we don’t have to replace them. And it sure wasn’t our other dog, Sasha, because she can’t jump at all!

I’ll spend the next few days figuring out what to do with all of the chillies that came off of the plant, in addition to the other things we picked once the chilli plants were back in the ground. In addition to the food we picked, I’ve had a half of a huge Queensland Blue pumpkin that mum gave me – I made a curried pumpkin soup and got the filling ready for tortellini with some ricotta I made, as well as a roll filling, the last two with spinach from the garden as well! There are some dill pickles in the fridge for burger nights that I made from some cucumbers that I got from the local farmer’s market, but I haven’t quite got around to using the peaches mum passed on to me from their neighbour’s garden. I did manage to give the lavender a haircut the other day with Olivia’s supervision (she spent her time trying to eat lavender stalks), so I’ve got two jars full of blossoms to use..maybe in some soap.

One thing I will need to do soon – figure out how to use my Malabar Spinach! This one has almost overtaken the bed it’s in and I’m pretty sure I saw another one popping up nearby. We’re also considering a front garden plan now since we had a very fortuitous visit to the library over the weekend..but that’s a story for another day!

Check out Dave’s harvest at Our Happy Acres and then have a look at everyone else’s!

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Harvest Monday

I’m back! I’m finally kicking that nasty ear infection and I’m starting to feel a lot more like myself now. I saw a specialist who confirmed that I had an ear infection and needed antibiotics so I spent the last couple of weeks watching too much TV (Vikings and The Last Kingdom) and cuddling Olivia.

I spent a little bit of time in the garden over the weekend; I picked jalapenos that Pete smoked straight away, lots of cayenne peppers that I’ll dry soon, and checked out my basil forest. The eggplants and capsicums are still going and the greens are going into overdrive so I’ll need to find some hearty, warming recipes for the coming cold weather.

The okra pods I left to mature for more seeds are starting to dry out and a confused little tomato seedling has popped up at the base of my apple tree – Autumn is officially here!

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Sick cuddles

So far I’ve been really lucky since Olivia was born; up until about three weeks ago neither of us had been sick. Then I got a cold, gave it to Olivia, and a week later we started to get a bit better.

Then last week I started to go downhill again. Yesterday morning I woke up and could hardly hear on one side! Straight to the doctor for some ear drops we went, then to a new little Mexican place close to home for some medicinal Mexican food. The chef cuddled Olivia while we ate our food because thry had just opened and we were the only ones there and we had a good chat before we left.

And now? Feeling much worse. The good food seemed to help for a few hours but last night I started going downhill again, and poor little Olivia’s sniffles have come back, too. Hopefully I’ll be able to get something constructive done soon because I’m starting to feel a bit stir-crazy..for now it’s baby cuddles on the couch and lots of tea!

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Getting things done!

I don’t know about you, but Autumn and Spring are my absolute favourite seasons. The days can be cool, warm, sunny and sleeting all in the same day, but you don’t seem to experience the same extremes of temperature (I honestly am not good with 40 degrees celcius. I’m the worst Australian.).

Because the days are so temperate and, well, enjoyable, I’m more inclined to get out into the garden (not getting sunburnt is another guge benefit actually!).

Today it was the chicken coop’s turn for a bit of attention. I’ve got to draw up a plan for some new nesting boxes for the ladies as they’re currently using an old plastic dog kennel that my mum had for unknown reasons (it’s way too small for their Great Dane), but in the meantime, I’ve shifted out the small pond Pete put in for Panda the duck, the pavers it was resting on, cleaned out Panda’s clamshell as she much prefers it to the pond, cleaned out the coop floor and the nesting areas and gave them fresh hay for nesting.

Now, that probably doesn’t seem an awful lot to anyone BUT it was done under the watchful eye of a certain miss five months, who isn’t normally big on that “sitting in a bouncy and letting mum do stuff” business and who’s being a little less of a cuddle monster now she’s getting over her cold. Sometimes I really marvel at all the time I wasted before she came along, I had so much free time that I wasted on who knows what, not getting important things done. Post baby, most things follow in a descending order from ‘feed baby’, ‘cuddle baby’ and so forth..and I’m not even a super clucky type. Promise.

Anyway, that’s today for me, I hope you’re getting stuff done too!

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Butternut Pumpkin Soup

Everyone knows one of those kids that doesn’t eat much of anything..or they do, but it’s not the food that anyone else really wants them to eat.

I was one of those kids. Think of the most boring, beige meal you can and I was there. Chicken nuggets? Chips? Plain bread? That was me. Even cheeseburgers were too much for my tastes. I remember my parents trying to get me to eat peas and corn once (not even corn on the cob!) – it didn’t work at all!

So I was never one for soup when I was young. I remember making chicken noodle soup with my dad once when my mum was sick, but that was about it. And don’t even get me started on soup in cans, I saw condensed soup once and I think it put me off for even longer that I would have been otherwise.

But cheeky kids with no taste grow up and their tastes change, and sometimes they’re introduced to new things like pumpkin soup.

It shouldn’t be revolutionary, but sometimes it is. This picky little kid grew up to like pumpkin soup and eventually introduce her partner to it. You see, Pete’s family errs more on the side of south-east Asian cuisine, so he’d never really had a chance to try it before and when I made him some last year, it went over well.

So a few weeks ago I picked up a couple of butternut pumpkins at the farmer’s market, promising myself that I’d definitely, definitely make up some soup for us just as soon as the weather started to cool down.

Here’s what I made, for posterity’s sake;

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Butternut Pumpkin Soup
Print Recipe
Pumpkin soup is one of my favourite Winter meals, and so easy to prepare in a slow cooker.
Servings Prep Time
8 serves 20 minutes
Cook Time
8 hours
Servings Prep Time
8 serves 20 minutes
Cook Time
8 hours
Butternut Pumpkin Soup
Print Recipe
Pumpkin soup is one of my favourite Winter meals, and so easy to prepare in a slow cooker.
Servings Prep Time
8 serves 20 minutes
Cook Time
8 hours
Servings Prep Time
8 serves 20 minutes
Cook Time
8 hours
Ingredients
Servings: serves
Instructions
  1. Put oil in small frying pan on low heat, bring to a low simmer.
  2. Add garlic and onion to oil, stir frequently until garlic and onions are soft and translucent.
  3. Transfer garlic and onions to bowl of a 6L/6+ quart slow cooker, add pumpkin, potato, carrot, chicken stock, and water.
  4. Cook on high for 6-7 hours, checking to ensure that the vegetables have softened.
  5. When the vegetables are easily broken apart with a fork, let the soup cool, and use a stick blender or potato masher to achieve desired consistency.
  6. Add the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Warm the soup back up to serve.
Recipe Notes

Serve with extra cream or basil pesto if desired.
I tend to add about a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper to this, but I can be pretty heavy-handed with pepper, so easy does it.

This soup is even tastier if you roast the pumpkin in a low oven for an hour prior to adding to the slow cooker.

As is the case with everything, the soup will probably taste better if you have the time to make your own chicken stock from scratch, but if you don't have it on hand, anything will do - even vegetable stock.

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Harvest Monday

Happy Harvest! This is a little bit late on my part, my garden time has mostly been replaced by sick baby-cuddling time the last few days. Now Olivia appears to be on the mend (or is at least sleeping a little bit better) I got to duck outside to check on things.

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Duck eggs from Panda – they’ve gone into some banana bread this week, a loaf for us and a loaf for my parents, because we had some bananas starting to get a bit too spotty for my liking.

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Jalapenos in the process of ripening, the plants are continuing to produce more flowers, as are a Carolina Reaper and a Poblano Ancho that I have in pots out the front.

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My Cayenne Peppers are coming along nicely now, but I’m a bit worried they’ll ripen at different times…

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New flowers on the Habaneros!

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Okra might produce some funny looking pods, but the flowers are absolutely gorgeous.

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Some little capsicums, lots of tomatoes from my old faithful feral plant, a couple of eggplants that mostly wound up in a veggie pasta sauce that became a pasta bake for Pete to take to work this week (and a couple were whole roasted so I can make some baba ghanoush) and a cute little lemon! The citrus don’t seem to be producing a lot of fruit, probably something to do with a certain German Shepherd who loves to run into things.

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On the left, Jalapeno Hot Sauce, on the right, Ginger Jalapeno Hot Sauce, made from fruit from our garden along with three kilograms (about six pounds) that Pete bought from the markets on Sunday. We’ve also smoked some to turn into chipotle powder and to make some chipotles in adobo ($4 for a tiny can from the shops or make our own and freeze…).

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Bacon and vegetable quiche from late last week..

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and a roasted sweet potato, feta and rosemary quiche from the same night. Making these wound up with me deciding I want to make a coconut condensed milk and almond tart, but I’m not quite there yet. I’m just focussing on getting a bit more sleep (a poor little baby who’s sick and teething isn’t the best sleeper) and giving as many mama cuddles as I can to help her feel a bit more rested.

What have you been up to? I’m linking up with Dave at Our Happy Acres

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Autumn chills

Pete dragged the coffee table towards himself, and the used cutlery clattered noisily in the bowls from dinner. He shot me a concerned look as I arched my eyebrow at him and looked down into the big baby blues of a suddenly very awake baby.
At five months old, we’re first time parents dealing with Olivia’s first cold. Last week when my friend exclaimed that she’d forgotten to warn us that her two year old was just getting over the sniffles, I shrugged her post-lunch warning off with a “she’s going to catch it sometime soon”, since we’re starting the downward slide into the chilly, short days of winter. The babies hadn’t even been near each other, I reasoned to myself..not taking into account the little toy giraffe that Olivia had swiped from the table and waved around before excitedly tasting its ears. Then its feet. Most of the giraffe was sampled at some point before it returned to its owner, the little Houdini who regards adults with a serious expression but fetches dropped items for babies, and who pets Olivia with hands so gentle that his mother always softly squeals that it’s about time to expand their family.
So here I sit with my cup of tea (and honey), snuffly baby snuggled up in my arms, surrounded by towels in case of emergency. I’m armed with some baby nasal drops and a bulb (and hats off to whomever those work for because they turn my sweet snuffler into a screeching wildcat!).
I feel like this might be easier when she’s a bit older, and a nice hot bowl of Tom Yum or chicken noodle soup will help to soothe her throat, but for now it’s snuggles and feeding and I’m okay with that. Of course, proximity means I’m starting to feel under the weather myself and a nice big slow cooker full of roast butternut soup might be all I accomplish today.

I do need to expand my repertoire of soups – what’s your favourite soup recipe for the start of Autumn? I never had a lot growing up because I was the fussy child that parental nightmares are made of, so I’m incredibly late to the soup party.

(Soup party! That’s a great plan!)

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Tuesday Blues

Do you have those days where you can hardly keep your eyes open and you feel like you’re just treading water?

For some reason, I don’t know how, mine always seem to fall on Tuesdays. Olivia sleeps less on Monday nights, I try and get too many things done at once, and Pete is out of the house at work and school until after nine. Olivia won’t settle for her afternoon nap and hoots at me while she’s feeding and my eyes droop but there’s no chance of a nap.

For some reason I started making lasagne and quiche as though I’ve forgotten that I have a limited amount of time in the kitchen! And I started re-arranging the chicken coop this morning, lifting up and throwing pavers out of the girls’ way so they can investigate the possibility of a bug lunch.

Everything started, nothing finished, I’ll try again tomorrow, hopefully with a bit of sleep and a lot more common sense tucked under my belt.

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Harvest Monday

It turns out I was completely wrong about the vegetable patch being done for the season – everything is going through what I can only assume is a final burst before the cold weather sets in;

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The feral tomato plant (which seems to be the third generation of a tomato I planted years ago to have come back) has probably been the most prolific bearer; not all at once like the big fist-sized Romas, but slow and steady every week. The jalapeno plants have still got more fruit on them and flowers as well, but I’m not sure they’ll amount to too much. The eggplants have slowed, and I’m going to try overwintering them – imagine the head start I’ll get if I’m not raising them from seed or tiny seedlings!

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Tiny little habaneros getting ready to change colour

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I think these are cayenne peppers – I’m letting them ripen, then I’ll try drying them.

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Neat little rows of chillies

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Okra and spinach ready for quiches and salads

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Late planted capsicums

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Sneaky greens!

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The feral plant – it sprouted in a corner of this bed at the start of summer and sprawled across the chicken wire. The last plant of this type that grew in the patch was a few beds over and I ended up with one vine that was about ten feet long by the time I pulled it out!

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The ridiculous boy, Konrad.

I’ve also got one broody hen, and two that aren’t providing a lot of eggs – so Panda, our Muscovy duck, has stepped up. I’ve had about 8 eggs from her recently, and five from the chickens – with no idea how best to use duck eggs. Can you substitute them in all recipes? Are they better for certain things? I’ve got no idea..

So, we’re not done quite yet! I’ve got to go through my phone pictures to get an idea of how much I’ve been collecting this last Summer, so I can measure it against next years. Soon!

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