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A New Beginning

Friday, 31 March 2017
Hello Dear Reader,

It's all over. My Mother in laws funeral and wake was very emotionally hard to go through but beautiful at the same time, made special by lots of family and close friends there on the day. I feel a sense of relief now that all of the organising, writing and editing of the eulogy, searching for photos and music for her tribute, having suits dry-cleaned, shoes shined and clothes ironed is over and now we can try and get back to some sort of normality. But what will our new normal, be like?

 There is no hurry or indeed want or need, to sort through her belonging, that can wait until we are ready. We have two little fluffy dogs that now have become part of our family, Lovely Hubbies Uncle offered to take them to his farm, but the little dogs wouldn't understand, and its snake country, I would't want to expose them to that sort of danger. It is a real danger, as this type of dog, the Jack Russell are known for their hunting skills and can't leave anything alone. Lovely Hubbies Uncles own Jack Russell, Darby, has killed about a dozen snakes over the space of a few years, unfortunately he has been bitten twice, the vet saved him, twice, and charged $4500 in vet bills for his treatment and recovery, now he is a house dog, only being let out on a lead for walks.  I don't know how we are going to integrate these dogs with our little black cat, Ninja, but time will tell I guess.

Our little family have been amazing through all of this sad and taxing time and it was made easier by their presence and help. Both of our kids are wise and sensible adults and over the last two weeks have often been the voice of reason, when my mind was too tired and too full to carry on. They have truly been a blessing.

Our frugal little life has been anything but over the last two weeks and lots of not so frugal choices were made because of being time poor, having no energy and also having bad headaches and a virus of some sort, to top it off.  It has not fun at all. I am feeling a bit better and went back to work yesterday. I think the virus and headaches are a two for one deal and once I shake that I should start feeling better. Because of being time poor we had take away a few times, dried the washing in the drier, didn't recycle or compost as much as I usually do and was just out of my usual routine, which felt wrong and dysfunctional.

So, as we start this new beginning, I want nothing more than to settle back into our old normal of living a small, frugal, thankful and uneventful life. I want to get some of my most cherished routines going again like baking bread, hanging washing on the line, riding my bike everywhere I need to go, quilting, thrifting and just being in my home with not much else to do except those jobs that keep my home humming along to the tune of simple living.

Finally, I want to say heartfelt thanks and gratitude for all of the lovely words and kind thoughts sent my way after we lost my Mother in law, they were truly special. Thank you.

The Sound of Silence

Friday, 24 March 2017
Hello Dear Reader,

Thank you to everyone who have left kind messages, it truly makes my heart sing. 

This last week has passed by in a blur of hospital visits, seeing faces of family, driving in silence, feeling numb, quiet tears, flowers arriving, long and short phone calls, compassionate, soothing voices and being at home keeping my self occupied with the humdrum of housework.

We were running late that day, the day of her passing, a hundred tiny things made us later than usual, I keep thinking if only we didn't do this or do that, we would have been there. She couldn't wait any longer and went peacefully without us. Although, she was not alone, I feel like we let her down. She had been surrounded by loving family all week and was awake until Sunday, really quite at ease and happy to see her family, joining in on conversations along the way. She wanted to go and we all understood why.

In retrospect we were lucky to have had that time with her, there were lots of tears, of course, but there were many memories, relived, that bought us joy and some solace.

We are in the midst of preparing for her funeral and I hope it is the last one I have to be part of for a long time. Thank heavens for our little family, Lovely hubby is stoic but soft and kind, our adult children seem to be coping and have been amazing help at the same time. Our daughter instinctively knows what to do and just jumps in and does it and our son cooked dinner for us last night, easing our burden of the everyday. We will be okay, together, we will be okay.



Friday, 17 March 2017
Hello Dear Reader,

And just like that, it's Friday. It has been a bit of a blur, with family arriving to visit my Mother in law who, sadly, won't be coming home from hospital this time. She had slight improvement on Tuesday and Wednesday but by yesterday, had decided that she has had enough of the chronic pain, not being able to breath properly and a rapid heart rate. Her Doctor, who has treated her for 30 years, has promised she will be kept comfortable.

She has been incredibly strong throughout her whole life and has dealt with a chronic lung disease since she was very young. She is still quite young, only 66, and has packed a lot into her life. She had periods where she was incredibly unwell but there were also periods of good health and she achieved so much for such a small determined woman.

It has been more than hard, seeing her slow decline and she has said she has no quality of life now, simply existing from day to day. She has had to rely on very strong medication for a long time, even so, her mind has remained clear as a bell and we will abide by her decisions.

We will all be with her today.


This Weeks 5 Frugal Things on a Friday

Hello Dear Reader,

Over the weekend, before my Mother in law went back into hospital, I was able to get a bit of baking done, trying out a new to me recipe for a banana bread. A lovely friend at work, I am looking at you Jenny,  told me about a new recipe she had made and how lovely it was, well within a minute I had looked up the recipe and had decided to make it. As I had some bananas going a bit too soft in the fruit bowl I used them up in this recipe. So I will make that my first frugal thing.

1. Made a lovely Banana bread using up some soft bananas (I never waste a thing) I will post this recipe sometime in the future, it's one of Delia Smiths and is really quite different in both flavour and method. I just love it. Thanks again Jenny, you rock.

2. Turned a flop of a recipe into some fabulous muffins. When I was checking out Delia Smiths Banana bread recipe, I spied this little recipe, for Oat Crunchies, well they didn't work as well as expected (I think I was expecting something like an Anzac biscuit) Anyway as you know I don't waste anything, I thought if I roasted some nuts and then blitzed all the ingredients it would make a nice crunchy topping for ice-cream or yoghurt. Well, that didn't work either, even after adding nuts and blitzing it, the mixture was still too buttery. Then I thought I would have a go at making this mixture into some muffins, and thats what I did! The end result was lovely nutty blueberry muffins. And no waste!

3. Took lunch with us to the hospital each day, the hospital cafe is lovely but the prices are eye watering, like most places that have a captive audience, they can charge what they like

4. Line dried all the washing, we have had some lovely rain, but there was still plenty of sunshine to dry the washing.

5. Continued to make dinner at home, even with being late home from the hospital, it was still worth the effort.

That's all I have had time for this week.


Jamie Olivers Ministry of Food

Thursday, 16 March 2017
Hello Dear Reader,

A while ago, a friend at work, told me that Jamie Olivers Ministry of Food was coming to the Peninsula, I was super excited and got online and reserved my place in the 5 week cooking class. It is really aimed at people wanting to learn the basics of food prep/knife skills/food hygiene/nutrition, but I thought it would just be a bit of fun to do. It was $100 for the five weeks and I think at $20 a week it represents excellent value for money.

They have two custom made vans that are travelling around our big country, and luckily for me, they have stationed this van just up the road from me at the new Stocklands development. The van is beautifully fitted out and very practical, they run the classes in groups of 12 at a time however there is plenty of room for all of us to do our chef-y things.

 Last Saturday, I completed week 3, which was Mexican week, and it was totally delicious. We made Guacamole and Chilli Con Carne and we take home what we cook. They emphasise using less meat and more veggies, encouraging you to use better quality meat and bulk it out with veggies, pulses and lentils. The ingredients are top quality and very generous, so I think it is $20 well spent. The portions will easily feed four people, very good value indeed. There was even excess ingredients that we were allowed to take home, so this week I took home a lime, a bunch coriander, a punnet of tomatoes and two very ripe avocados, from this I was able to make another batch of guacamole, what an unexpected bonus.

The first week, was egg week, we boiled (5 min for soft, 7.5 min for medium and 10min for hard)  poached and scrambled eggs and also made a Spinach, Red Onion and Feta Frittata, all easy and totally delicious. I had never poached an egg successfully before, but with some handy hints, I cooked my first poached egg. Just for this first week, we worked in teams of two, so at the end we were able to take home half the frittata each. I had it for lunch over a couple of days. From here on in, we worked independently.

Week two, we made Carbonara, with a healthy spin, instead of oodles of cream and cheese we used only 100 mls of Creme Fraiche, pancetta instead of bacon and a small amount of good quality parmesan cheese. It was finished off with mint and baby peas and the pasta we used was farfaelle. This dish made so much, definitely more than enough for a family of four. I ended up taking it for lunch nearly for the whole week. We also made a beautiful tomato salad with cannelloni beans and olives, simple and delicious.

The other dish we made that week, was a berry ice-cream made with frozen berries and natural yoghurt. The frozen berries and the ice cold yoghurt were simply blitzed in a food processor with a few mint leaves and honey and together it made, almost instant, amazing ice-cream. This is the only dessert we will be making in the whole course, so we all enjoyed this fabulous treat.

Next week is curry week, which I am really looking forward to, I will be especially interested in Jamie's spin on a quick curry. No doubt, there will be plenty of spice and accompaniments to go with the curry. It should be fun.

One Year Ago-Whats growing in the garden this month

What we bought, spent and ate this week

Wednesday, 15 March 2017
Hello Dear Reader,

We have had a bit of a messy few days, firstly my Mother in law happily came home from hospital on Saturday, after having her usual procedure and staying in hospital for a week (not the messy part), then she was promptly re-admitted on Monday afternoon, quite unwell, so that meant us being at the hospital until quite late on Monday night (thats the messy part). Thank heavens we had some left over Congee and were able to heat it though and eat rather quickly when we got home. The hospital she goes to, is a 50 minute drive away, although, late at night, we were home in 40 minutes. As I type this she is stable, but still very unwell.

Our daughter and lovely hubby's Uncle are arriving today to visit my Mother in law in hospital, we haven't been told, in as many words, that her passing is imminent but the lovely Nurse who has know my Mother in law for a long time has seen a huge decline in her lung function and breathing, she felt it would be a good idea to round up the family. So we will all be seeing her today at some point.

When my Mother in law goes into hospital for the week, we are a bit more relaxed in what we eat. I use up any leftovers lurking in the freezer and I quite often have just an egg on toast, as I am not really very hungry for dinner most nights. Don't get me wrong, I do eat, but I find that I look for food mostly at morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea, from then on I feel satiated, although as I mentioned I do still eat, just not a big portion.

I am very happy to report that this weeks grocery shopping came under budget and we have lots of food hanging around because of the above glitches in dinners. I bought a whole porterhouse steak cut 2 weeks ago from the meat truck at the markets, we were meant to have a BBQ on Monday night but a trip to the hospital happened instead so we will be having that BBQ tonight if nothing else goes wrong.

I have planned another two meat free meals this week to keep the costs down and loaded up with some great buys from the new to me Fruit Market on Saturday. This is what was on our family table this past week-

What we bought

Shopping from Woolworths and Nothlings Quality Meats. The cocoquench was on special for $2 each so we stocked up, also our cat, Ninja's, wet food was also on a very good buy so we bought 2 boxes. We bought 1.5 kg of chicken thigh fillets from our butcher for the Congee

Shopping from Coles

Shopping from Rothwell Fruit Market

Shopping from the Sunday Morning Markets. The berries were 3 punnet for $15.00, the honey man happily refills the empty jar for $9.00 (1 kg) and the cheese man always sells his cheeses for, any four items, for $10. This week I got a vintage cheddar, a brie, a deluxe blue and a container of sun dried figs, all completely delicious. 

What we spent
Nothlings Quality Meats-$17.72
Rothwell Fruit Market-$53.38
Sunday Morning Markets-$36.00

What we ate

Wednesday-I had a poached egg on toast and Hubby had a bowl of leftover Pulled Pork, rice and veggie

Thursday-Caesar Salad with a poached egg

Friday-Wraps made with leftover beef ragu (from the freezer), cheese, tomato, greek yoghurt and chilli sauce

Saturday, Monday and Tuesday-Chicken and Ginger Congee

Sunday-Chilli Con Carne with Guacamole, steamed rice and natural yoghurt

So that's been our messy week, thanks heavens for meals, like the chicken congee, that go a long way. What is your go to meal, for when life gets messy?

Lemon and Almond Cake

Tuesday, 14 March 2017
Hello Dear Reader,

This is a cake I have had in my repertoire for about three years and have made it a number of times. I re-discovered it, over the weekend, when I was searching for another recipe. I love it because of its delightful, zingy lemon flavour and gorgeous light texture. It is unusual for any cake, made with almond meal in it, to be light, but with the addition of whisked egg whites gently folded through at the end, it makes the cake much lighter and airier.

I leave it unadorned, no icing, but it is lovely served with whipped cream or ice-cream as a dessert or just leave it plain, either way it is a winner and a doodle to make in the Thermomix. Of course you can make it without a TM, I will give you the alternative method down below.

Ingredients for Lemon and Almond cake. clockwise from top right-
1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 1 cup raw sugar, 1 lemon, 6 eggs, 200 grams of almonds

Preheat oven to 160 C. Juice and zest the rind of the lemon

Put the almonds in the bowl of the Thermomix

Blitz for 6 seconds on speed 9 and set aside

Now add the sugar and the lemon zest to the TM bowl

And blitz for 10 seconds on speed 9

Separate the eggs

And add the egg yolks to the sugar mixture

Blitz for 20 seconds on speed 4

Add the lemon juice, almond meal and vanilla essence

And blitz for 10 seconds on speed 5

Pour and scrape this mixture into a large bowl

Now for the egg whites. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites till soft peaks form, don't overdo them

Gently fold in about a third of the whisked egg whites to the cake mixture

Once incorporated, mix another third of the egg whites in

And lastly, add the remaining egg whites and gently but thoroughly incorporate

Pour cake mixture into a greased and lined 20 cm round cake tin

And bake in a 160 C preheated oven for about 45 minutes

Let cake cool a little in tin, before turning out on to a cake rack to cool completely

This delicious cake has a gorgeous light texture with a lovely zesty flavour from the lemons

To make the cake without a Thermomix, just start with almond meal and castor sugar. Lightly whisk the egg yolks, lemon rind and sugar together in a bowl until the mixture is pale and creamy. Then add the juice, almonds and vanilla essence and combine, then just gently fold in the whisked egg whites. 

Over to you, what is your favourite cake recipe made with almond meal?