Wednesday, May 20, 2015

We can all be someone's Miracle.....

"Women work a great many miracles".
Louisa May Alcott
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby, some have entertained angels unawares".
Hebrews 13:2
I love these two quotes.
How many miracles do we all work in a day? How many angels do we entertain unawares?
From balancing a tiny budget, and sometimes feeding our families on a wing and a prayer, to nursing those we love when ill, to passing on skills to our children to sustain them in adult life, to counselling those around us when things go wrong, to being the hub of the family wheel for information and support.
Then of course there's the lesser 'miracles' of meeting a million little deadlines from getting children to school on time with homework, hats and lunchboxes intact, to meeting with bank managers, maintaining our careers, driving children to appointments and lessons of all kinds, to improving our minds, and keeping our hearts and hands busy and happy.
We grow food, even if like me, it's really only herbs. And in saying 'only herbs' I immediately chastise myself, for herbs add so much to our mealtimes. The going out to the garden to clip them and inhaling their freshness as they're cut. The chopping or tearing into smaller pieces to add to a home cooked meal. The aroma as they mingle with the hot steaming food, and the incomparable flavour when the food is transferred blissfully from plate to tongue. That surely is too, a miracle. How can a tiny insignificant plant, add so much to our human enjoyment of a simple meal?
And of course, what is it about women, that even when we are ill ourselves, we still put our loved ones first. How many times do we rise from our own sick beds, to tend to the needs of those we love. be they children, beloved pets, husbands, siblings or ailing parents? I know I've done it more times than I can imagine.
And then of course, there are those who do not have the gentle and loving hand of a Mother or even a female mentor in their lives. Some never have. Can you imagine that? Who guides these young people...yes young men too. Who is the soft and kind influence in their lives? What opportunities to we have to 'entertain angels unawares'?
I went searching for an opportunity to mentor a young person who may not have the gentle presence of a mother figure in their lives.
Volunteering Queensland was the first place I looked.
Well, I was astounded. There are literally thousands of volunteer roles on their website and many of them noted 'urgent'. There are Breakfast Clubs where you are involved in cooking and serving food to students in schools who may not otherwise eat breakfast for a variety of reasons. There are calls for editors of special interest magazines for the disabled, bus drivers, companions, conservation team members, baristas, receptionist for a Christian radio station, gardeners, cooks, even co-ordinators and cooks to help with classes for Jamies Ministry of Food (yes, of Jamie Oliver fame).
There were also many calls for Palliative Care support which is particularly poignant for us at this time as we sit bedside with a much loved terminally ill Uncle. There are two men in his ward who have no-one to visit them. No-one to hold their hand and tell them they've lived their life well. It's heartbreaking.
What miracles could the women who live in my area work, by giving just a few hours a month to one of the many organisations seeking support? What miracles could you work by seeking an opportunity to volunteer in your town?
Today, I'm writing three letters to three women I know, who go largely unacknowledged for their kindnesses to others. I want them to know that they are miracle workers in their own small way.
I've also chosen my volunteering role, and I'll be putting that in place for when we return from our trip next month. That will be something to look forward to.
What will your miracle be today?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Let us be elegant or die....

I'm snuggerising here.
This is a term I picked up from the a lovely friend, Helen, who posts on The Bluebirds are Nesting, and it's just stuck with me.
It's sort of like Spring Cleaning, but it's to make the house warm and welcoming for Winter.
I received the most beautiful copy of Little Women from my son for Mothers Day. Snuggerising sounds very much like something the March family would have done.
Here are two favourite quotes...
"Love is a great beautifier"
"Let us be elegant or die!"
I mentioned the first in a post on Mothers Day.
Everything my Mother touched with her hands and her love, was made more beautiful or elegant for her having done so. She had a way with making do that went beyond the merely functional.
 Mending...dispatched with a ribbon here, a bit of lace there. A single rosebud from the garden in a tall slender vase on the kitchen bench or the divider that separated the living area from the dining area. A beautiful tea set acquired by inviting all the neighbours to a Tupperware party and exceeding sales of a certain dollar value, proudly displayed on the same divider. Home made icecream in our tiny freezer...the one made by whipping chilled tins of evaporated milk and adding other ingredients...the recipe appeared online some years ago, and I recognised it immediately. A longed for bedroom chair with an orange faux fur seat at my dressing table. Crepes with lemons from our own tree and caster sugar, for afternoon tea. Any wonder our friends wanted to come home with us!
So my lovely friends, let us beautify what we have with a loving touch, not an expensive one. Let us be elegant, no matter our circumstances as the March family were. Let's make the most of what we have. Let's do as a friend of mine is doing and refashion something no longer useful into something valued and treasured. She is turning polar fleece dressing gowns that her family have grown out of, into throw rugs. Gorgeous!
For me it means trimming my pillowcase with scraps of lace today. It means baking red velvet cupcakes for daughter to take to work experience. It means continuing to stitch sequins and crystals to my faux Moroccan wedding blanket. It means polishing everything with home made jasmine scented furniture polish.
I make my own furniture polish as I have lots of lovely antique or antique style wooden furniture in my home. I just melt a little coconut oil, and add several drops of jasmine or frangipani essential oil to it. I put this in a small container, and take just a dab on a soft cloth (not microfibre in this instance), wiping it on in horizontal strokes, then polishing it off the same way. Don't go round and round with it or you'll end up with swirls on your surfaces! You need to dust with a microfibre cloth first too, so the dust and grime doesn't get trapped in the polish. It's a little more labour intensive, but smells waaaaay better than spray on commercial stuff, and makes the house glow :)
It means remembering another beautiful quote from Little Women...
"Be comforted dear soul. There is always light behind the clouds".
Love to you all

Sunday, May 10, 2015


“The humblest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them.”
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Everything my Mother touched was beautified by her having done so.
She taught me so much.
She was kind and wise and giving.
I can only hope to emulate her.
Gone 12 years now, but forever in my heart.
Happy Mothers Day.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Be your own lady in waiting....

The truly wealthy or blue blooded, all of them have someone to perform the more menial tasks for them.

I suggested recently, putting your towel out on the end of your bed or the edge of your vanity, beautifully folded with toiletries tucked inside.

You can extend that idea to much of your daily routine.

The trick is to think 8-12 hours ahead.

What will be happening eight hours, twelve hours, twenty four hours from now? What can you do NOW to make that run more smoothly or make it more luxurious?

For me, it will be dinner time in six hours. So I've just prepared a green salad in a pretty bowl and set the table with placemats, dinner plates, polished cutlery and linen serviettes. I even had time to iron the serviettes at this time of the day. Not essential but a nice touch. I've put a vase of greenery in the centre of the table too.

The gluten free Chicken Parmagiana is sitting in the fridge ready to pan fry and bake for a few minutes, and the potatoes are peeled, diced and soaking in water ready to be roasted.

Likewise, I had lunch ready early today. It's my Quinoa Salad, and it was like going to a café` to have it all ready to go, in a pretty bowl in the refrigerator. I ate it in the sunshine on my back verandah and felt very pampered.

Eight hours from now, we'll be heading off to bed. Our towels and toiletries are already laid out and fresh pyjamas are floating on the line in the sunshine, lightly scented with homemade Sunlight (Velvet) soap laundry detergent. They'll be neatly folded and snuggled inside the folds of our towels, perched on the end of our beds.

Twenty or so hours from now, we'll be going to breakfast at a friends house, so our clothes are already ironed and ready, and I've done a Bircher Muesli in a crystal bowl to take with us, and some gluten free currant buns, and butter whipped with icing sugar and lemon zest to go with them.

Berries need to be purchased at some stage today to add to the top of the Muesli, and I'll tackle that while I'm out collecting my daughter from school.

So here I sit now, the next 24 hours pretty much under control, and now I just have to find that cleaning pixie to do the dusting, polishing, mopping and vacuuming. Oh right....that's me.

Mind you, with home made Jasmine scented furniture polish and Eucalyptus cleaner, that task isn't all hard either.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


A passage from Little Louisa May Alcott.
"Not far away from here lies a poor woman with a little newborn baby. Six children are huddled into one bed to keep from freezing, for they have no fire. There is nothing to eat over there, and the oldest boy came to tell me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls, will you give them your breakfast as a Christmas present?" Mrs March to her daughters....

The March family seems poor, but when they're contrasted with the Hummels, who don't even have wood for a fire in the middle of winter, we realize that they're actually pretty well off. The existence of poor families like the Hummels gives the Marches a way to practice charity at home, sacrificing some of their comfort to preserve the lives of the unhappy children who live nearby.
Source: Schmoop

We've come to think of wealth as 'possessions'. What happened to having a generous heart?

We've come to think of the term 'ministering' to mean something religious.
And certainly in the right context, it means that.
"To perform the functions of a religious minister."
It can also mean "to give service, care or aid".
Or "to contribute as to comfort or happiness".
I've mentioned before that our youngest son has Cerebral Palsy and is completely physically dependent. He has a great life that exceeds the expectations the world had for him when he was a child. He lives in his own home, with a team of support staff around the clock, and does what other 24 year old fellas do. Watch sport, have friends over, play with the dog, go out to restaurants and so on. He's my hero.
He came to see his younger sister in the school musical last night. He had a ball, met new people and amazed me, as he always does these days, with his immense capacity to engage others in conversation, and take an interest in them, despite his own limitations.
He even let me hold his hand for a bit, which I like to do, and which he doesn't always allow, even if he enjoys it too.
Which brings me to the ministering.
Who do you minister to in the course of your day? In this context, I'm referring to 'contribute as to comfort or happiness".
We do this automatically for our loved ones, but there are many in society who lack comfort and happiness.
I know I've been called upon just in the last week, to minister to a sibling who is having a troubled time, to a friend of my daughter who has some struggles with depression and anxiety, and to the vet who visited my sons dog, who also has a disabled child, and whom I listened to at length, prompting her to observe as she left... 'what an extraordinary conversation for me to have with a perfect stranger!'.
I am, at certain moments, anxious about who will minister to my disabled son when I am no longer here. Will his sister hold his hand, curled by the Cerebral Palsy and give him comfort and happiness? I hope so. But she too, will have a family and work commitments. Will his Aunts and cousins and sisters-in-law minister to him? Again, I hope so, but there are no guarantees in life. 
My greatest fear, is that in the busy whirlwind of life, my son will miss the gentle touch of someone who loves him. Someone who is not there because they're paid to be. Someone who holds his hand and looks into his eyes when he speaks, and is genuinely interested in him.
I can only hope that in my lifetime, I have done enough, ministered enough, and provided sufficient comfort and happiness to others, that it will be returned in kind for my son.
We can all be 'ministers'. We can all contribute comfort and happiness to someone outside of our immediate family circle in the course of our day or week.
To whom will you minister this week?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Let Mother Nature write the menu...Roasted Pumpkin and Eggplant Dip....

We hear all the time about seasonal eating, and seasonal fruit and vegetables, but how many of us really eat that way?
We now eat pears, strawberries, kale, and broad beans, whether they're in season or not. Somebody, somewhere in the world, is always growing and producing what the market demands, and why not fly your oranges and squash half way around the world if that's what the folk want....right?
In returning to seasonal eating and cooking, we return to the rhythm of the Mother Earth. We eat what she provides, what she knows is at optimum freshness and bursting with flavour.
Generally speaking (and I know there are always exceptions), the less expensive items at the fruit market, are the seasonal produce, so that also means that eating well need not cost the earth.
In eating healthily on a budget, it also pays to remember that many of the recipes and foods we hold most dear, were born of seasonal eating and cooking in other parts of the world and other cultures. Everyone used to cook only using what was on hand. So sometimes it's a good exercise to experiment and change up an old favourite in that spirit of using what is available at the time.
This brings me to the dip I made on the weekend. I mentioned it here yesterday in my post on my value in the home.
I scored a huge bag, probably 3kg (6.6lbs) of eggplant (aubergine) at the fruit market last week. I adore these, and will eat one, grilled simply, topped with roasted tomato and a little parmesan, for lunch and dinner any day of the week. Alas my family take a little more convincing.
Now I don't know about your family, but mine will eat anything if it's in a dip, a pizza topping, or a lasagna. So it's not all bad.
In this particular instance, and having seen teeny weeny tubs of dip at the self same fruit market for $7.50, I was inspired to create this version of an old favourite, Baba Ghanoush...posh language for roasted eggplant dip with other stuff in it. My husband and daughter will eat Baba Ghanoush and in fact, ask for it. Tell them it's Eggplant Dip and you can forget it! You gotta laugh!
Pumpkins are also pretty inexpensive here just now, and I had the end of one leftover from the previous week, so while the eggplants were roasting, I decided to dice the remaining pumpkin and include that in the dip too. We'd kinda had enough of pumpkin for a bit.
Here's the result, and mighty tasty it is too.
You will need a food processor or blender for this. Alternatively you can mash the ingredients well, but you will finish with a much chunkier 'dip'. I only have a tiny benchtop food processor, so I process the vegetables and tahini in several batches, transferring it to a large bowl, then adding the other ingredients.
Mimi's Roasted Pumpkin and Eggplant Dip
Makes up to five 200gm (7oz) tubs of dip depending upon the size of the eggplants.
You'll need:
4 large eggplant
120gms (4ozs) peeled and diced pumpkin
3 tablespoons tahini
1 heaped teaspoon minced garlic or 3 garlic cloves, minced
Zest of one lemon, plus the juice of half the lemon
1 heaped teaspoon each of ground Coriander, Cumin, Turmeric, Smoked Paprika and Ginger
1/2 clove, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2 tablespoons sour cream or Greek yoghurt
3 tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped roughly
Olive oil
NB: These individual spices can all be replaced by a commercial Moroccan Seasoning if you prefer and have it on hand. I make my own 'Moroccan Seasoning' from the ingredients mentioned.
Then just:
Prepare several containers with lids into which to decant the dip when done.
Preheat the oven to 180C (375F).
Prick the eggplant with a fork in several places and place on a lined baking tray.
Toss the diced pumpkin in the olive oil and spread that on another lined baking tray.
Bake the eggplant and pumpkin until soft and tender, about 20-35 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool. When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, peel the skin from them, discarding it, and chop the flesh roughly.
Add the eggplant flesh, the pumpkin cubes, and the tahini, to the food processor bowl and pulse until minced, but still a little chunky. Remove to a large mixing bowl, and add the other ingredients, combining well with a wooden spoon or spatula.
Decant to tubs for storage. This keeps well in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
It will also freeze, but it's best to omit the sour cream/yoghurt and the fresh coriander, and add those ingredients when you defrost each portion. You may find you actually like it without the cream/yoghurt and fresh coriander and that's fine too.
Personally, I'm a shocker for adhering to the intended purpose of food stuffs, so even though I call this 'dip', I actually use it in many ways.
So far, we've eaten this as:
A topping on pan fried salmon
A filling for baked potatoes
A sauce for Rice noodle pasta, along with crushed pistachios and lemon wedges on the side
A spread for breakfast toast
A relish for burgers
A topping on Corn Thins with roasted capsicum
An alternative base to tomato paste on pizza
Don't be limited by what the ingredients 'are supposed to be' or what the intended use for a food is.
Use your imagination, and open up a whole new world of taste and texture sensations.
And experiment with seasonal produce. You might invent a new family favourite.

Monday, May 4, 2015

This weeks insourcing value in the home...

I've been deliberately off-line for a few days, in order to have more 'doing' and less 'talking about doing'. This might sound odd, but sometimes in the enforced urgency of blogging, it seems that it's more important to post what you've done, than it is to actually do.
So I am proud that I had a really productive week last week. I shopped frugally and found lots of lovely inexpensive but good quality produce at the fruit market. I spent enough there to avail myself of their loyal customer offer, getting some lovely mandarins gifted with a smile.
From that produce I was able to make the equivalent of 10 bought containers of Eggplant and Roasted Pumpkin Baba Ghanoush (recipe on here tomorrow), 6 jars of lemon butter, 10 prepared and portioned ziplock bags of vegetables (celery, broccoli, zucchini, capsicum, beans), several trays of roasted tomato and roasted capsicum, roasted two trays of snake beans with chilli and salt..these are a delicious crunchy, salty, spicy snack, made ten snack bags with veges and chicken slivers, and crumbed some veal steaks with GF crumbs made from the crust ends of the loaves. This makes a small portion of meat really big and satisfying. I add grated parmesan to the crumbs for a nice robust flavour. This is where those little 'luxury' items like parmesan cheese, really make the meal. I'm mentally trying to calculate the retail version of all that, and I'm coming up with insane figures based upon the price of all that in the supermarket and deli. I'm going to say $5 each on the Baba Ghanoush (they're actually $7.50 in the posh deli and a smaller container!), the same on the lemon butter and ditto on the real price, portioned and prepped veges are $5 each all day every day, snacks and snack bags...well you can't buy them, but lets say $5 saving on things like sushi, chips and so on, parmesan crumbed veal sells for $32.99 a kg at my local butcher, so $20 there. So around $150 saved on similar bought items, and that's with the price of the ingredients subtracted.
I made and froze lentil and vegetable soup with all the endy bits of veg that were on the way out, and made peanut butter cookies with Teff flour I found in the pantry (a random GF purchase), sandwiching them with cinnamon icing. They were a success, but we all agreed we weren't that fond of the flavour of the Teff flour, so I'll have to find another way to use the rest of it up. It was expensive so I don't really want to just toss it. I recall buying it to make a pastry I found in a book, so perhaps I need to unearth that book!  Lentil soup is $8 for a 500ml sachet in the supermarket, and I made about 6 litres. So there's $96 worth there and GF treats are ridiculously expensive at around $4 per cookie, so $60 worth there. So again, subtract the price of the ingredients and I've created meals and treats valued at around $150, if I were to purchase them ready made.
I planted herb seedlings out, including basil, coriander, garlic chives and some shallot ends...the green things that is...they will of course grow from the end white bit with the roots dangling off it. The value there is around $15 a week. We love fresh herbs and add them to everything, so it's a substantial spend to buy them.
I started crocheting fringe for my version of a Moroccan Wedding Blanket, and starting stitching sequins to the bed cover I'm using for that project, which I've had for about thirty years! You can see Annabels crocheted version here. One the size I am embellishing costs anything up to $1500, so that's a biggie.
I also made lentil burgers one night, baking the GF bread rolls myself...scrummy....and baked four loaves of GF bread, which is so much nicer than the awful spongy stuff you buy. A saving on bought GF rolls of $9 and a huge saving of $28 on the bread. Subtract the price of the bread mix at $9, and I've still saved $28.
All up, I value my efforts at $1843 this week!
So a really good week for me, and the reason not much happened with my blog all!
Still...doing is better than writing about doing!
Please share your insourcing achievements. I love hearing about what everyone is up to!