Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Productivity Breeds Contentment

Lemons from my tree

If you've read here for a little while you might remember me mentioning my prosperous lemon tree.  Yesterday it was citrus tree day here at the Picket Fence.  We trimmed some suckers off the base of the trunk of my kumquat tree.  That poor thing hasn't fruited for a couple of years now.  I've time for marmalade making so I'm hoping all the little flowers will now have the energy to produce fruit.

Dh then went for the lemon tree.  He's a very heavy pruner and has gotten himself into miles of trouble of the years for being a little to enthusiastic.  Like the time he pruned the kumquat tree when it was flowering.  The children wisely warned him but he went ahead with his heavy-handed ways, and the poor man hasn't lived it down yet.  In any case, the lemon tree has been dragging its branches all winter and autumn with the weight of fruit so Dh thought a little trim might help it.  He brought me a bucket of fruit he'd gathered from the trimmed branches last night.  This afternoon I finally braved a look at the tree.  Even at half the height there is still a mountain of fruit out there.  The tree doesn't look too nude either.  Relief for us all!

What to do with a bucket of lemons?

"Maggie's Harvest" comes to the rescue
I'll take some to the friends will be New Year's Eve'ing with tonight.  The rest I might just preserve.  Maggie Beer's "Maggie's Harvest" book is the place to go for such a recipe.  I'll need some nice large preserving jars, which I think I can get up the street here in Our Town, and some salt.  That's it.  Easy peasy.  

Since tonight has been designated a dessert night, by our NYE hosts, I made a lemon polenta cake (thank you, Nigella) to take with us...more lemon usage.  Miss Sunshine was a bit stroppy because the cake has almonds and she can't eat nuts.  But there'll be other desserts to be enjoyed and one cannot live completely nut free if it isn't necessary.

As well as dealing with the lemon bounty I also needed to use some leftover pork today before it was headed for the bin.  I'm in the process of making Asian pork buns, which will reside in the freezer to be reheated as desired.  The dough requires a three-hour rise.  I'm sure that's a little over the top, but who am I to argue?  I've made a cake and now get to sit with my recipe books and computer while my foot has a rest (plantar faciitis, I think).
With lemon curd, onion chutney, fruit mince and pork buns stashed away and preserved lemons on the horizon I'm feeling quite content.  And the children are keeping up with my dishes.  Because that is why we have clean up after us.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Post Christmas Entertaining and Cleansing

It seems that, with Christmas, additional entertaining tends to be the way things go.  For us it comes in the form of family members who travel down from interstate.  In our desperation to eke out a extra little time with people we love and rarely get to see, we invite them over for an impromptu meal with very little notice.

Enter Nigella.

I knew that with only a couple of hours to shop and cook Nigella would have some kind of answer for me.  Actually, it was Miss Sunshine who suggested fajitas, and I knew Nigella had a great recipe.  So we sat down to a meal which, apart from the colour of the dishes, looked exactly like the one pictured above.  Simple, easy and not too time-consuming.  Two children hate capsicum.  Three children love it.  One child didn't care.  There was some picking out and some gobbling up, in equal measure, on that score.

For dessert we had watermelon and nectarine slices.


Today I decided it was time to find out what lies beyond my kitchen window.  Four years of build up meant a dusty, somewhat moldy view.  This morning I took out the fly screen and hosed it down, and then cleaned the windows.  Wow - there are really pretty trees, and rosemary, and chives out there.  And now I can see it all very clearly.

I could be persuaded to do a little window cleaning here and there and find out what lies beyond all the other windows too.  It might take some time.  Between reading.  And sleeping.


Do you get to the end of all your Christmas celebrations and find yourself unable to digest a single morsel more?  I didn't quite get to that this year, but a day at my parents saw me nibble my way through more sugar than I eat in a month. pavlova, my Mum's apple pie and a mango twist on a tiramisu...what's a girl to do?  And sugar coated peanuts embody my childhood and I simply cannot leave them in the bowl.  It wouldn't be right.  And homemade shortbread.  You can see how the day went.  

I'm finding it very easy to nibble on small tidbits rather than sit down to a full meal.  Unfortunately the boys in the house don't quite agree.  I'm sitting here trying to figure out a menu plan so I can go grocery shopping (in the Aldi store that opened in Our Town just before Christmas.  Hallelujah and Praise the Lord!).  You know what?  I can't think of a single thing I feel like eating.  Because I don't feel like eating at all.  And then my tummy rumbles and I know something has to keep it quiet.  But what?

It will be 37C and 39C (around the 100F mark) on Friday and Saturday so I image something cold will need to happen.  Who wants to cook on days like that?!

What do you eat after Christmas when your tummy is tired of digesting food?

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas

From our home to yours, 
Merry Christmas! 

This year has been declared "The Year of the DVD" in our house.  What can I say - we love watching movies together and this was, apparently, the perfect time to endow one another with movies we've been wanting.  Since I'm the kitchen gal, I finally have in my possession a cast iron recipe book stand.  No more splashes on recipe book pages for me!  I needed that yesterday and this morning before we exchanged gifts.  I have been making caramelised red onion chutney, lemon curd and fruit mince yesterday and today.  The chutney was part of our gift to my brother and his wife.  I had some on my hamburger last night.  YUM.  The lemon curd has been used in the trifle.  The fruit mince will go into pies for Sunday with my family. 

Picket Fence Christmas Menu

Glazed Ham
Roast Pork (with crackling - the best bit)
Cranberry Sauce & Apple Sauce (for the pork)
Hasselback Potatoes
Roast Carrots
Caesar-style Salad

Lemon & Raspberry Trifle
Christmas Pudding & Custard


I hope your celebrations 
are full of precious, beautiful 
moments with people you love.  
More importantly, my prayer 
is that you will be reminded 
of the incredibly priceless gift God 
gave us through the birth of his son. 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Over the four years of my degree my children made it very clear that we should travel to Tasmania for me to graduate in person, rather than in absentia.  In fact, they declared that we had all earned a little graduation trip.  Indeed they were correct.  It is only with the support of my incredible family that I have had the freedom to pursue a degree and I think we all more than earned a little holiday to go with graduating interstate.

My University is located in Tasmania - they do an excellent job of distance education and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time studying with them.  We spent the first half of our trip in Launceston,  beginning with my graduation.  The ceremony was an incredibly uplifting and inspiring occasion.  I was particularly moved by the occasional address presented by a lecturer from my faculty.  She reminded us that we should not settle for our students to be limited by our perception of them.  Rather we should aim to inspire them to be the very best they can be.  She articulated all I believe about this with beautiful eloquence.

I also learned what the Latin on the University's logo means:  "the field is open to talent".  I liked that.  It tells me I should dream big.  I should aim high.  And I should step fully into the field I have chosen and the best educator I can possibly be.

And then we spent a few days just being tourists.  I'll post more about that soon.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

More from Miss Sunshine

Miss Sunshine posted her sketches on her Facebook page (something she signed up for when told she should move out rather than get a pet.  Apparently Facebook is a sufficient alternative to having a pet) and got lots of family love.  Amongst the "Oh, you get that from our side of the family", as if my genetics are meaningless, there were requests and challenges issued.  Frosty was a request.  The oldest cousin in that family was issued a challenge when he suggested her efforts were below par.  His offering was "sad and pitiful" and Miss Sunshine remains the queen of the sketch.

As for the genetics, my mother is quite skilled with sketching.  Dh's family may have some artistic skill, but Miss Sunshine and my Mum surpass them all.

This one is my personal favourite, because Hugh Jackman.  I've never watched Wolverine or X-Men, but still. 

Our school receptionist suggested we should frame and sell Miss Sunshine's works.  When she asked why, we responded "because money!"  Miss Sunshine hadn't thought of that!  I think she should sketch a picture of our Principal.  They have a little morning routine that has been lost with her departure from school.  I think he misses her cheery "Hi Mr R---" every day.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Miss Sunshine is bored....

Miss Sunshine's sketch of Bilbo Baggins

I've not had much to say lately so I thought I'd share some of Miss Sunshine's sketches.  This is the product of her I've-just-finished-school boredom. 

Miss Sunshine's sketch of Jack Sparrow

They say pictures tell a thousand words and I have none of my own to share.  Miss Sunshine is a freak of nature when it comes to sketching though, so I thought I'd share these instead. I really want her to email me a picture of today's sketch of Hugh Jackman.  Because if I wasn't married to my husband I might be all about the gorgeous Hugh.  When she sends it and Frosty I'll post those too.

In the meantime I've resigned from work and will officially be unemployed in January.  There are just no words.