Friday, 23 June 2017

This Weeks 5 Frugal Things on a Friday

Hello Dear Reader,

How was your week? Mine was okay, just the same as most weeks, home, work, sleep, repeat. We had one outing, on Wednesday night, nothing exciting, just our 6 monthly dental appointment. Not exciting but necessary, keeping my teeth in good working order is really important to me, like most things in life, prevention is the key. On the subject of health I have made an appointment for a medical checkup, now that I have turned fifty. I want to enjoy good health for the rest of my, hopefully long, life and while I enjoy good health now I want to see if there is anything that needs tweaking. 

My darling Mum and Dad retired into ill health which was incredibly sad for all of us. Mum had long standing ill health, starting with a kidney transplant and ending with a massive stroke and Dad contracted viral Cardiomyopathy which ended his life a year before we lost Mum. They were both only in their early 60's when they passed away, which is way too young and I grieve their loss every day. Dad always used to say"Your health is your wealth" and he was so right, if you don't have your health no amount of money will make it right. I guess that is why eating well and getting some exercise everyday is so important to me. Some illnesses are out of our control and occur randomly, but I still want to take care of myself. 

Now on with the frugal stuff-

1. Cut up some, not so wonderful, strawberries and gave them a little love in the form of some icing sugar and vanilla essence. I find sometimes there is a few dodgy strawberries amongst the perfect ones in large packs. Last Saturday at the Northside Discount Fruit Barn they had 3 large boxes of strawberries for $5.00, what a bargain. This weekend I am going to make this dessert for a treat and to use up some of those lovely strawberries. 

2. Made a huge pot of pumpkin soup with a magnificent pumpkin we bought a few weeks ago. I keep the cut pumpkin wrapped in foil to keep it fresh and it lasts for ages. That being said, it was high time to use this particular pumpkin up. This is my favourite recipe to use. It made such a large batch of soup, that we dined off it for 3 nights, a few lunches and a container for the freezer. Talk about economical. 

3. Rode to work everyday. After the heavenly rain of last week kept me from riding to work, I am enjoying my brisk ride to work every morning. I do rug up against the cold but by the time I have reached work I am well and truly warmed up.

4. Line dried all the washing. Same as above, because of the rain last week I had to use the drier quite a bit. I love sun dried washing and as I look after the washing by shaking out all the wrinkles as I hang it up on a hanger or peg it out, there is no ironing! Sweet! I didn't inherit the ironing gene. 

5. Kept the warm up water to keep the fig trees out the front hydrated, even after all that rain they dry out very quickly. If there is one constant in my garden, it is my potted figs at our front door. They are over 20 years old and have been repotted into bigger pots three times now. They seem to be very hardy and pest resistant. We give them a trim every now and then to keep their height down, in fact looking at them now, they are well overdue for a cut back. 

How was your week? What frugal stuff did you achieve this week?

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Our Big Holiday Plans

Hello Dear Reader,

Back in 2009, lovely hubby was very ill and for a long time the doctors were baffled by what was causing him to be so sick. He developed stroke like symptoms, his vision was failing and even standing up became difficult. This process was gradual, starting in early May and ending in July, when he was finally hospitalised and endured three major brain surgeries. In the end, it was discovered that a bacterial infection had infiltrated the meninges of his brain, by sheer luck they were able to retrieve a tiny specimen that indicated a bacterial infection of some nature and he began on a very long and intensive course of big gun antibiotics. On his 42nd birthday, in August, we were allowed to take him out to dinner to a wonderful Chinese restaurant not far from the Wesley hospital and ironically from this point on, he started to get better. It was a slow road to full recovery but even now his memory is affected and he has slow information processing time.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because it was this event that made us realise we had better do some planning for our future lives instead of just talking about it. Lovely hubby had always been one to say "We will do it, one day" without really making any firm plans. Well, because of this life changing health scare, now we are planners and doers instead of just wishers and hopers.

On the 28th of July this year, we will be going on our trip of a lifetime, a dream that has come true. We are flying to Vancouver, cruising for 7 days to Anchorage, Alaska and then spending the next 7 days at 3 wilderness lodges in Canada and Alaska. We have saved hard for the last 8 years to achieve this dream and I hope it will be everything we dreamed of.

Like most cruises everything is well planned, from when and where you dine on board, to what shore tours you would like to book. It is all done well in advance with plenty of time to peruse your itinerary and shore tours. We love cruising and so far we have done a couple of cruises up the coast of Australia, two cruises to the Pacific Islands and one cruise to New Zealand. All these cruises were saved for, booked well in advance and paid for in full before we left. Cruising to Alaska will be truly a trip of a lifetime, we have booked shore tours that will let us get up close to the amazing wildlife, fascinating history and stunning nature of Canada and Alaska.

The cruising photos above are from 2014, when we went on a cruise to New Zealand. It was truly a beautiful cruise with Princess cruises. We have chosen Princess cruises again for our Alaskan cruise and I am sure it will live up to our expectations. There maybe some people, that think that this is not a very frugal thing to do, and they would be absolutely right, it isn't, but we did and do live frugally in order to fulfil these dreams. 

All work and no play is no fun for anyone and I am a firm believer in always having something on your horizon to look forward to, it balances out, the not so wonderful days and weeks at work, to know that you have a lovely holiday to enjoy after all the hard work. 

Life is too short to not live a little, every now and then. 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Really Simple Date Loaf

Hello Dear Reader,

This recipe comes from a blog called "Frugal and Thriving" and I have baked it countless times over the years. It is one of those really simple recipes that always works and tastes just wonderful. The ingredients list isn't exhaustive and again uses simple ingredients usually found in your pantry and fridge. I always have a few Weetbix leftover from when we go camping so this recipe speaks to my frugal, no waste, soul.

I have tinkered with the original recipe slightly, using brown sugar instead of white and only using 1/2 cup instead of 3/4 cup. The only stipulation is that you must use Weetbix not Vitabrits, the reason is Weetbix contains malt and Vitabrits doesn't, it all comes down to flavour. It is a super moist loaf that is beautiful slice fresh and spread with butter or toasted with peanut butter and honey. YUM!

Ingredients for Really Simple Date Loaf, clockwise from top left-
1 cup of dates, chopped, 1 teaspoon bicarb soda, 1 cup boiling water, 4 Weetbix, crushed, 2 eggs, beaten, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 cup SR flour

Preheat oven to 180C and prepare a loaf tin by greasing and lining with baking paper. In a bowl, add the chopped dates, bicarb soda, brown sugar and crushed Weetbix and mix well

Pour over the boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes

Mix in the beaten eggs

And then add the SR flour

Mix until just combined, don't over mix

Pour into a prepared loaf tin (greased and lined) and bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 180C or until a skewer comes out clean

Devour fresh from the oven with a hot cup of tea. That is my kind of bliss.

Have a lovely day.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Setting up the new compost bin

Hello Dear Reader,

My worm farm has been happily chewing through our fruit and veggie scraps for years now but just lately I have had a glut of scraps that I have been digging into our postage stamp size veggie garden. Now there just isn't any more room for me to keep doing that so it was high time to invest in a compost bin.

So, last Sunday, at about 9 am, I hopped online and googled Gumtree for a compost bin. I couldn't believe my luck when I saw a brand new looking, compost bin for the crazy cheap price of $5.00 and even better it wasn't too far away from our home. So, half an hour drive later we picked up, a new to us, compost bin, in the pouring rain. Not that we were worried by a bit of rain, we just got the bargain of the century.

I have been doing a lot of reading on how to set up an effective compost bin. I really wanted one that sat on soil rather than one of those tumbler compost bins, as I have read that all the beneficial bacteria and of course the earth worms will enter the compost bin and weave their magic when the compost bin sits on open soil. I have read about the ratio of 1 part green to 2 parts brown and I hope I have done it right. I haven't turned it over yet, I will let it sit for a week and the give it a good stir over next weekend.

So, from what I have gleaned this is what I should and should not be doing to achieve sensational compost


1. Layer with 1 part green to 2 parts brown and break down any large pieces


fruit and veggie scraps
fresh grass clippings
coffee grounds, tea leaves and tea bags
manure from cows, sheep or chicken
egg shells


tissues and newspaper
drier lint
egg cartons
dead leaves and branches
sugarcane mulch

2.Water in-between each layer

3.Turn the compost regularly

4. Repeat


meat or bones
fats or cooking oils
dairy products
waste from domestic pets
weeds or diseased plants
garden waste that is contaminated with herbicides or pesticides 

Don't let the compost become too wet or too dry

The compost will be ready when it resembles healthy soil and smells like earth. Wish me luck

To fit the compost bin in, I removed the spent chia, amaranth and one of the pumpkin vines. Unfortunately every time a pumpkin would start growing it would shrivel and fall off, this pumpkin vine came up by itself and looked healthy enough but as it wasn't producing pumpkins, out it came.

I have used lucerne and sugar cane mulch for the "brown" part as I didn't have enough brown stuff laying around the yard.

All I have left now in my little veggie garden is my lime tree, my one last healthy Red Paw Paw tree, a robust rosemary plant, a struggling strawberry runner that has come from somewhere (maybe next door), a pumpkin vine that I have re-trained down the left hand side of the garden and a newly acquired cutting of lemon grass from Morag at Our Permaculture Life, oh and of course the compost bin. I won't plant anything else for a while now, I will just concentrate on making the best compost I can. 

I have read conflicting reports about using junk mail/catalogues in the compost bin, has any one used junk mail for the "brown" part of the ratio? Any suggestions for how I can "do it better" are more than welcomed. 

Have a lovely day.

Monday, 19 June 2017

My Best Red Lentil Dahl

Hello Dear Reader,

Over the years I have collected countless recipes for Dahl, there are so many varieties using all sorts of spices and ingredients. I like my Dahl to have heaps of flavour and texture so I invented this recipe using a mish mash of two different recipes, taking the best from both and combining it into one outstanding Dahl. It probably isn't very traditional but, boy, is it tasty!

My late In-laws weren't really a big fan of vegetarian dinners so this great little recipe hasn't been cooked as much in the last 10 years but I intend to make up for lost time. It is everything a vegetarian dinner should be, healthy, filling and really delicious. It makes the best leftovers too as the flavours just keep getting better and better. The recipe is easily doubled or halved depending how many people you are feeding and I think, hearty enough, to have as a stand alone dinner served with steamed rice and papadums. This quantity easily feeds 2 hungry adults with a few leftovers for lunches.

Ingredients for My Best Red Lentil Dahl, clockwise from top right-
100 grams spinach leaves, one can of coconut milk, 225 grams red lentils, thoroughly washed, 1 bunch of coriander, finely chopped, 1 tomato, finely chopped, 2 small onions, both finely chopped but kept separate, 2 garlic cloves and a thumb size piece of ginger, both grated on a microplane, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds, 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric and 1 teaspoon salt. You can add two or three finely chopped chillies if you like (I used 3 birds eye chillies, finely chopped-not pictured)

Sauté one of the finely chopped onions with the chopped tomato and the grated garlic and ginger for about 5 minutes, on medium heat, don't let it take on any colour

Now add the chilli (if using) cumin, coriander, turmeric and salt and continue sautéing until fragrant

Now add the rinsed and drained lentils, stir to coat in the gorgeous spice mix

Now add 500 mls of water and the can of coconut milk

Mix well and bring to a gentle boil, pop the lid on, turn heat down to medium-low and let cook away for about 30 minute or until lentils have softened and cooked down

Meanwhile in a small saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of oil and add the cumin and black mustard seeds

When the seeds start to dance around, splutter and pop, add the other finely chopped onion

And sauté on medium heat 

Until onion is golden brown and jam-y. Set aside until needed

When the lentils have cooked down and thickened

Add the spinach leaves and let wilt down for a minute or two

Now add the spiced onion mixture and stir through 

Garnish with chopped coriander

Serve with papadums

Steamed rice and chutney

A wonderful spicy, warming, comforting dish and economical to boot. 

What is your favourite Dahl recipe and what other pulse or lentil do you use for your Dahl?

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Simple Baked Egg Custard

Hello Dear Reader,

I actually didn't like this dessert when I was a young girl, I don't know weather it was the texture or the taste of the nutmeg, but I really detested this particular dessert. Well, fast forward just a few years, ahem, and I now love this simple, humble and delicious dessert. It takes no time at all to put together and uses every day ingredients, usually already in the pantry and fridge. I don't usually keep dairy milk in the house but I had some milk left over from when my Niece and family came for dinner last Sunday and decided to use it up in this great little recipe.

This baked egg custard is made a touch more special with the addition of 1 cup of cream, you can easily omit this and just use three cups of milk instead, but I think the cream definitely makes this, already lovely dessert, more luscious. One other thing, don't skip adding the salt, I am not sure if it comes down to chemistry, but not adding salt really alters the taste and the texture.

The baked custard is cooked in a bain-marie and you can make little individual baked custards or one large one, I think the little individual ones are super cute and kinda special.

Ingredients for Simple Baked Egg Custard, clockwise from top right-
2 cups of milk plus 1 cup of cream (or just 3 cups of milk) 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla essence, freshly grated nutmeg, 1/2 cup sugar, 4 room temperature eggs, 1/4 teaspoon salt. 

Preheat oven to 180C and place six lightly greased, 3/4 cup capacity, ramekins in a high sided baking tray large enough to hold bowls without touching each other or the sides.
Heat milk in a smallish saucepan until very hot, that is, starting to steam with just a few small bubbles starting at the edges

Meanwhile in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt and freshly grated nutmeg

Until blended

Pour hot milk into egg mixture 

And whisk well

Pour custard into prepared ramekins

Fill the ramekins as evenly as possible

Put into preheated oven and pour in enough hot tap water to reach within 1/2 inch of the top of the ramekins. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a knife inserted near the centre of the custard comes out clean. The centres should be soft with a bit of a wobble.

Serve warm or cold

Delicious with cream or ice-cream

Oh, and I have been known to add a teaspoon of raw sugar to the top of a cold baked custard and get out the blowtorch to turn it into an, almost, Creme Brûlée, mmm!

I know it is old fashioned but, done well, this is a classic and delicious dessert. What "old fashioned" or "classic" dessert do you make and love?