Friday, March 30, 2012

Stuffing Self with Yumminess

I was going to title this post Yeast: Potato + Rosemary Pizza and Hot Cross Buns, but I didn't feel it covered the full extent of the gorgeousness that's going on in my kitchen today.

We had some pizza dough leftover from the other night.  We just stored it in plastic in the fridge for four days, and it rolled out and cooked beautifully.  For lunch we just wanted to grab things from the fridge, and ended up with a Potato and Rosemary Pizza and a vege one.

Hubs was cooking
I've also put on some Hot Cross Buns 
Ingredients in the breadmaker tin
My previous post about this recipe is HERE, with links to the recipe.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rediscovering Bread

Last year was not a good year.  What with Grandad passing away - yes, yes, he was 95, but just because you see the punch coming doesn't mean it hurts any less (as a very wise friend of mine often says), and Miss 6's Aspergers diagnosis, it was a hugely emotionally draining time.

I knew that I was slipping into survival mode, weight was going on, the garden was going to rack and ruin, and I didn't care. I had neither the time nor the energy to care.  I didn't set foot outside from one week to the next, I stopped cooking and slowly the things that I hold very dear began to slip away.

As I've blogged before, I had my turning-40 check up and found that I had high blood pressure, no iron and no Vitamin B12.  Thanks to our stabby local nurse I'm up to the last of my B12 injections, eating iron pills religiously and yanno, chilling out, these things are fixing themselves.  In addition to this we're getting more and more help with Miss 6, and I feel like I've got somewhere to turn when the shit utterly hits the fan.

Writing is going well, I've got submissions going out hither and thither, and I'm in a better place to see and appreciate the positives.

So I've come down with the flu (of course), and on Saturday I dragged my poor aching body to bed and happened to watch River Cottage Everyday, the episode on baking bread.

Baking bread was something used to do every day, but it became lost in last year's maelstrom.  I love baking bread. I love yeast and brewing things and all the alchemy that goes into it.  I watched that ep of River Cottage, then watched it again.  And my passion for bread was re-kindled.

Yesterday morning I was up early and making Irish Soda bread for breakfast - I'd never heard of it before, but am a total convert.  Bread made in around 40minutes - who knew!!  It was utterly delicious.
Irish Soda Bread
I also made a batch of bread dough, which I split into breadsticks and a white loaf
Breadsticks all rolled out
Miss 6 is very fussy with what she eats, and the cheesy breadsticks were a total hit - they did come out a bit fat through.
Breadsticks and some home made hommus
And a lovely white loaf (artistic slicing on the top did not come out to plan, but oh well)
White loaf
I know its only bread, but I feel like I've got a bit of myself back, after it was lost last year.  Of course, I do still have the flu and spending the morning baking when I should've been resting was probably not the smartest, but I just had to bake.  And I'm glad I did, even though I'm feeling pretty drained today.  Its a sign I'm not in crisis mode anymore, and that things are coming together.


The Organised Housewife

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

And the next six sentences of my complete novel Drive Me To Distraction

She knew that it hurt to elbow a person in the nose, but even so, the urge to damage him was unusually persistent. Instead, she zipped her racing overalls up to her neck - heat exhaustion, on this rare hot English summer day, was preferable to Mike indulging in his favourite work-hours pastime of peering down her top.
Snatching her clipboard from her desk, she left the small administration office of Thruxton Motorsport Centre with enough force to make the windows rattle in their cheap aluminium frames.  Outside, the smell of baked tarmac and hot oil hung heavily in the warm still air, soothing like aromatherapy – if you bought into that girly-rubbish, which Alex didn’t. 
She glanced at the clipboard and undid her overalls a couple of inches. Mr. Robert Dryden was the next driver eager to conquer the Thruxton racetrack and attain his Racing Drivers Licence.  

First six here

Part of Six sentence Sunday.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Smells: Not so Lovely ones AND Lovely ones - A Summary

Links to all my Lovely Smells posts are below :)

Three things make a house smell off...
  1. Last night's unwashed cooking paraphernalia
  2. Un-emptied rubbish bins
  3. Dogs
I could add... hubs shoes/feet, children, fermenting cups of tea, poo, aging undiscovered pet/infant wee, drain issues, rotting potatoes in the potato drawer, spew, other pets, carpets from 1973, old glasses of wine, etc... but they are all specific to my house.

One thing I'm pernickity about is getting the dishes done after dinner (and as anyone who reads this blog knows, mostly I should get an award for housewifely-slackarsery).  There is nothing more depressing, first thing in the morning, than to be faced with a congealed, stinking sink-ful of pots and pans.  Its a drag and I hate it, especially when the Screamies are finally settled and all I want to do is slump on the couch, but I do it (or persuade hubs to do it :)).

If you have a small rubbish bin (for kitchen waste etc) then you have to empty it more often and it doesn't get smelly.  A friend of mine had a huge bin that didn't get emptied except on bin-day, one very hot summer day she spied maggots crawling out of it. Shudder.

Dog smell seeps into everything.  I've found two solutions.  
  • Wash the dog (or have him washed - that's what I do. The cost is about $40 a month, more if he is clipped, and I see that as part of the cost of dog ownership.  I do also bath him inbetween-times, but he loathes the hair-dryer so I only do it if the weather is nice).
  • Glen-20 (mysteriously called Oust for a while, but now back to Glen-20).  I hate squirting chemicals around the house, but in this case, its the lesser of two evils.  Its also a disinfectant.
Making the house smell lovely can be quick and easy.  My first post is HERE. But for a quick summary...
  • Open windows and doors - air the place out
  • Aromatherapy (I've got a series on aromatherapy and essential oils on its way)
    • Use an oil burner (I have both an electric one and a tea-light one which uses a candle, though these days you can steam ones and ultrasonic ones!)
    • My favourite smells include 
      • Lavender
      • Tea Tree
      • Eucalyptus
      • Any citrus based oil (orange, lemon, grapefruit)
      • My fave combination is Lime, Frankincense and Lavender
  • Incense
    • These days there is a dizzying array of different types of incense, my favourite at the moment is a Lemon Myrtle one
  • Scented candles
    • Ones with essential oils in them are the best, but also cripplingly expensive
  • Brew some coffee
    • My husband loves this option
    • Coffee smell is very overpowering (which is why they get you to sniff coffee beans in perfume shops in between smelling perfumes. The coffee overpowers your scent receptors and you can smell the next perfume better) it is therefore very good at temporarily hiding smells
  • Stick the bread-maker on
Other, slightly more time-consuming smell solutions include
I've so enjoyed writing about lovely smells :)  Thanks everyone for reading. I'm planning posts on aromatherapy and putting good smells into your house using home made cleaning products.  Coming soon :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lovely Smells: Simmer Pot

Simmer pots are something I like to get going in winter.  In Sydney it can be incredibly dry (yes, there is a torrential downpour outside right now which has been going since November, but it CAN be dry, especially when El Nino pays a visit, rather than his sister La Nina) and simmer pots are a good way to humidify the air.

I've got the instructions for stove-top simmer pots below, but I usually leave mine sitting on the wood-burning stove.

Basically as simmer pot is a pot of water on the stove, into which you place lovely smelly things.
Lovely smelly things:
Lavender, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, star anise
 Place smelly things into a saucepan of boiling water (spot my obvious mistake)
It didn't make much of a difference
Bring water to a boil then reduce to a very low simmer, smell will permeate house beautifully.

Replenish water regularly - it stinks if it boils dry (don't ask how I know that). And if you leave it on your wood-burning stove for an extended period without boiling it might begin to ferment (don't ask how I know that either).
Making lovely smells
The smell lingers for a couple of days, and is wonderful for making the house feel warm, welcoming and content.

Good recipes include...
Recipe #1
Cinnamon sticks
Apple peels
Orange rinds
Whole cloves
Recipe #2
Peel from 1 lemon
Peel from 1 orange
2 bay leaves
3 cinnamon sticks
2 Tablespoons whole cloves
Recipe #3
A few drops vanilla
Orange peels
Recipe #4 (the one I used)
1 cup dried lavender
1 tsp anise
1 Tablespoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon whole cloves
1 Cinnamon stick
Recipe #5
5 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon

Of course, if this all seems horribly wasteful to you, make a batch of Mulled Wine - it smells sensational too :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

The first six sentences of Drive Me To Distraction.  A complete, but as yet unsold (watch this space!!) novel of mine...

“If he doesn’t slap my bum, make women driver jokes, or tell me to brace myself because he’s the hottest boy-racer I’ve ever seen –“
Mike’s eyes continued to glaze over. They’d paused when Alex said bum, but now they continued their journey into complete ambivalence.
“- then we’ll get along just fine.”
“You’ll never get anywhere unless you lose that chip.”  Mike stepped close and brushed an imaginary chip from her shoulder. His gaze wandered down to her chest. 


Monday, March 12, 2012

Recycled: Multi-Grain Bread

Old burblings, re-burbled...

So I mentioned a while back that I'd cracked my white bread recipe...


7 - 15g Fresh Yeast (depending on freshness of yeast and what it has to rise, mostly I use about 10g)
250ml water
480g White bread flour
2 - 5g salt (depending on who I'm making the bread for. Less salt for us, but more for guests as it tastes nicer)

I do the first knead and rise in the breadmaker, then knock down, put in bread tins, second rise in a barely warm oven (be able to touch the inside of the door without burning hand) and cook.


I'm getting a nicely risen, light white loaf every time with this method.

So, having got that under my belt I wanted to move on to wholemeal and multi-grain.  Wholemeal has caused me many issues in the past (have offered mumndad wholemeal loaves to use instead of bricks for house - they'd last longer).  Multi-grain however has been a complete unknown, and when I was in the health food shop on Monday and picked up some whole grains.

I soaked a cup of mixed grains overnight in buttermilk.  I only used buttermilk because we had some leftover, and I read somewhere it was a good thing to soak them in, otherwise it'd have been water.

I added a (very approximate) cup of soaked grain to my usual recipe above and voila...

A first try, bread baking success.  A light loaf with lots of lovely nutty chewy grains.  Simple and delicious.

Rather chuffed actually.  Bread is not known for turning out well at the first try (or the one thousand and thirty fifth).

A lot of people ask me where I buy my fresh yeast.  At the big deli outside Woolies in Hornsby - which isn't much help to anyone except locals. But fresh yeast is almost always stocked by big delis.  It's very rarely on display, so you have to ask.  Using fresh yeast, that doesn't have a predictable rise cycle like packet yeast, means that you can't really just bung your bread into the breadmaker and forget it.  I find the first rise is a lot slower, up to an hour more, which is why I complete the breadmaking in the oven.

 Still, if I throw everything in the breadmaker to knead and rise before I do the school run in the morning, we will have fresh baked bread for lunch.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lovely Smells: Bake (+ Easy Cake recipe)

Sure-fire way to make your husband/wife/children love you more, and visitors think you are a stellar housewife - have something baking when they walk in the door!

If you have a breadmaker, then this is the easiest way to make this happen.  Even the lovely yeasty smell as it rises wafts about a bit.

Bake a cake.

Yes a bit more time and effort, but have a crack at Froogs instant sponge cake, and you'll see that it can be quicker than you think.  Certainly as quick as heading up to the supermarket to buy a packet mix and then coming home and cooking it.

It looks a lot like Mt Fuji, this one
For this one, which is a direct knock-off of Froogs one, (and excuse the state of the cake, I will not be baking anything that looks remotely polished until I get a new oven. Mine has two temperatures. cremating and off) I used...

250g Eggs (4x large ones, 5x the ones my chooks lay)
250g Self raising flour
250g sugar
250g butter/marg

If you want chocolate add 30g (2x heaped tbsp) cocoa
If you want vanilla add a few drops of vanilla extract

Mix ingredients together.  I use my mixer (my hand-held blender isn't strong enough for the batter)
Divide between two cake tins (greased/floured, or lined with greaseproof, whichever floats your boat)
Bake - Froogs says 30 mins, mine took about 25 in the Cremator - its ready when you stab it in the heart and your implement of stabbiness comes out clean)
Cool (as in let the temperature drop, although, though it could mean AWESOME you just baked a cake, or you've been watching the Fonz on Happy Days too much, you choose.)

Now for my favourite bit...

Ice it with nutella in the middle, and sprinkle icing sugar on top.

That's it.

No annoying icing to mess up the kitchen further.  Hurrah.

We had no icing sugar the first time I cooked this one, so I just stuck it together with nutella. Worked perfectly though you could still see the burnty bits.

The Organised Housewife

Friday, March 09, 2012

Lovely Smells: Air Freshener bowls

Shelley teacup: Harebell design, demitasse cup (half size) circa 1940
I've been using this recipe for years and you can find it in various states of decay in most rooms of my house.  I originally found it in a Jackie French book.

1 cup rock salt
1 cup dried mint leaves (from tea shops, or contents of 4x peppermint tea bags)
1 cup finely grated lemon rind (dried until rubbery) You can also use orange rind
1/2 cup cloves
1/2 cup crunched up cinnamon sticks

Mix ingredients together
Keep in small bowls in the toilet, spare room and other musty places
Smells lovely, and absorbs smells

Monday, March 05, 2012

Dam Spill

Warragamba Dam, the Sydney drinking water supply, reached capacity on Friday night (at 6.53pm) and started to spill.  The last time this happened was 16 years ago. Anyone who follows me on twitter would've seen my updates as it inched closer and closer to the top.

The Dam is about five minutes from mumndad's place, and we visit there regularly. The kids love it and they have an awesome visitor centre.  I've been going there since my family moved to Australia in 1983.  I've walked on the dam wall (back when you were allowed to - its shut now, due to the fact that if it was damaged, it'd send a 16m wall of water down to the hundreds of thousands of people who live in Penrith and surrounds), explored inside the dam wall (yep, they used to let you run about inside it), forgot about it for 10 years whilst it was closed and being upgraded, and watched as it dropped to 20% capacity and then rose to 100% just a few days ago.

  • Dam Spill footage
  • Sydney catchment authority footage

Of course we went to visit on Sunday.  You could not have kept me away.  You cannot see much of the spillway, but it was worth the trip just to hear the roar of the water, and to see the crowds.

Walking down to see the dam 
Crowds at the viewing platform
Looking out towards the spillway
That's the spillway in the distance behind the trees
youtube footage is much more interesting
 On an entirely different note, I found out that around the remote upper reaches of the dam Dingos, native to the Sydney area, live in packs.  I had no idea Sydney had its own Dingo, let alone ones that still lived in the wild.


Sunday, March 04, 2012

From Chaos to Control: Part 2: The Laundry

Step 1. Airing out the House is complete

The next step in bringing a feral house under control is to get the washing on.

Even if you haven't got the time or the energy to do anything else, when you stick a load on you're making a dent in the whole horrible crap-heap.

Step 2. Get The Washing On

  • Place a washing basket in a central area
  • Toss every article of clothing that is on the floor into the basket
  • When the basket is full empty it in the middle of the laundry floor
  • Repeat until there are no more clothes on the floor - this may take a while if you are a parent to girls who have to change outfits every 14 seconds
  • If you have trained your children/husband to actually use the laundry baskets in their rooms, empty them on the pile - you will be amazed what you will find at the bottom. Amazed. 
  • Add in all the dirty towels and bathroom mats
  • Forget the beds.  Do them another time. Nobody ever died of sleeping on dirty sheets (well, not at my house)
  • Have a rest and contemplate your pile of dirty laundry. 
    • Now is a good time to photograph it and post it on the internet (unless you phone has a flat battery, ahem), 
    • Also to check facebook, twitter and your blog stats,
    • Sip your tea. Microwave it if its gone cold
  • Next, sort the whole heaving mess into colour coordinated piles.

My teeny weeny laundry
  • Now wash the pile that has the most important things in it
    • Your own clothes first - I always used to do mine last, and never had anything to wear 
    • Then, whatever you need to get you through the following day - eg school uniforms, underpants...
  • Go and have a sit down and watch Dr Phil.  You've earned it.  Also he might be talking about 'abandoned child reunited with siblings,' or 'tarty girls get called tarty,' both excellent daytime viewing.
Home Made Laundry Powder
  • Home made laundry powder is excellent stuff
    • A lot cheaper than commercial brands
    • Easy to make
    • I use two parts lux flakes, one part borax, one part washing soda (NOTE: I'm having a lot of trouble finding lux flakes these days)
    • Down To Earth has loads of info
  • If you are overwhelmed and the house is trashed, its likely you have neither time nor energy for making your own laundry powder. Save it for when you've got time, and use the bought stuff for now.  That's what I do.
  • Certain loads always need a bit more oomph (like when the article has been soaked in bodily fluids and left in a knotted up plastic bag for a week).  I always keep OMO and napisan on hand for loads like that (also tongs).
The brilliant thing about the washing is that it takes time - so if you are busy with other stuff you can do a load now and then, and still feel like you're getting the house under control.

Use the dryer, or hang-out the wet stuff - whichever is easiest. Be virtuous and save electricity when the house is calm and you have the energy.  Now is the time to use the short cuts like the dryer.

Time taken: About an hour.

In Love with Mum's new puppy - Chloe the Labradoodle

Friday, March 02, 2012

From Chaos to Control: Part 1: Introduction and Smells

Stressed out, over-whelmed, over everything, stacking on weight, exhausted, short tempered and my blood pressure is on the rise.

It does not take Einstein to figure out that maybe one or two things need to change in my life.  Sadly several of the things causing the most amount of stress are beyond my control, and not able to be changed. Living with a child with Aspergers, for example.

But, a lot of things can change, and I can also arrange things so that stressors have less of an impact.  Calm Cait reacts so much better than frazzled Cait to a no-holds-barred tantrum.

My house slips out of control on a regular basis.  The clutter creep is endlessly persistent, and it only takes a few days before a clean surface is chest high in dumped stuff.  I'm inside these four walls all day, every day, and the environment being so messy irritates me constantly.  It makes me feel overwhelmed, and it takes three times as long to find anything, which is exhausting and frustrating.

The first part of the journey from Chaos to Control is getting the house in order. This is going to be no small task.  Especially as we are enduring foul foul weather so everyone is inside and messing it up the moment you get it tidy.

I begin with making the place smell better.  It really helps.

1. Smells

  • Tea
    • When tackling a job of epic proportions the first thing I do is make a cup of tea - true, today I couldn't actually get the kettle under the tap due to the pile in the sink, but I persisted and got a brew on.
    • Tea will keep you hydrated, and give you a chance to stop and contemplate how far you've come.
    • I recommend you don't put your nice hot cup next to an old half-full cup.   Just sayin.
  • Open the doors and windows
    • Stride around the house flinging open doors and windows.  Air the place out, banish the stale mustiness. Banish it, I say.
  • Deodorise
    • I use essential oils - get the burner out and get some good oils wafting around
      • Lavender
      • Tea Tree
      • Eucalyptus
      • Any citrus based oil (orange, lemon, grapefruit)
      • My fave combination is Lime, Frankincense and Lavender

    • Incense 
      • Yes it makes the place smell like you've been smoking pot, but it keeps away flies and mozzies
    • Glen 20
      • I am not one for spraying chemicals about, BUT, we have a dog and we let him sit on the furniture - well, we forget to kick him off it.
      • Glen 20 is awesome for getting rid of dog/cat/kid smells that may have seeped into your furnishings.  Its also a disinfectant.
    • Air fresheners
      • I don't use them, but there's heaps to choose from in the supermarket.  
      • You can make some beautiful chemical free ones to squirt about - I occasionally do (emphasis on the occasionally).  I'll do a post on them next week.
      • Scented candles
      • Brew some coffee
      • Stick the bread-maker on
Time taken: around 10 minutes.

So, it may seem like a weird way to start getting your house under control. Its always worked for me.  Cup of tea and freshen the place up.  Then you can get stuck into the rest of it.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Rescued by the SES

Yeah, so you know how I said I had nothing to write about..  Remind me not to be so foolish.

There was a horrific crack and crash from our Liquid Amber last night.  And this morning revealed that a large branch (15m long, nearly big enough to circle with my arms at the base) had split off, taking out all the branches below it and landing on the washing line.

It was balanced precariously, and we had neither the tools nor the knowledge to deal with it safely, so we rang the wonderful SES and asked them to come and help us out.

They were here within two hours.  Professional, efficient and... um, messy...  My vegie garden is under all that!

Seriously though, awesome group of people.  Cannot thank them enough for their help.

One of the guys mentioned to me that they were very tired.  It's been a hell of a summer and they were doing 5+ calls out to trees a day, in addition to helping with floods, plus their usual search and rescue duties which had been called upon twice in the last week alone.

What is WITH this weather??