Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More Roses

Had to share some more rose pictures. I cannot be sure if the perfect huge blooms I am getting this year is due to the good rainfall we have had this year or perhaps it is due to the maturity of the roses but whatever the reason my roses are amazing this year. Each morning I look forward to going out into the garden to check on the roses and every day have found more blooms. They have been so neglected for the last eight years while I have been working away so much so every time I cut some stems I am trying to give the bush a bit of careful pruning in an attempt to put them back in shape.

I picked these yesterday, stunning display of apricot and cream blooms. One rose stood out as being so perfect I had to put it in a vase by itself. The vase is actually a balsamic vinegar bottle with such a good shape to it I soaked the labels off and repurposed the bottle as a bud vase. Edna and Vera would have approved though I doubt if they would ever have had balsamic vinegar in the lifetime! I remember Edna would have malt vinegar and white vinegar in her cupboard. She always had basic white vinegar for cleaning as well as for making mayonnaise and I am sure she would reuse the bottles for practical purposes but not for flowers!

This is such a perfect rose bloom I had to take a photo of it. The vase is a black glass bottle which has made a very good bud vase. More rose stories to come, time to get out in the garden again.

Monday, November 2, 2009

My Blue (well bluish) Rose

My poor garden had been very neglected over the last years of me working in a mad industry that kept me working long hours every day of the week. The few times I actually saw my garden in daylight would make me cry it distressed me so much. Slowly the garden is taking shape again. We are both taking some time every week to do clean up jobs and the rewards are starting to show. It is the best year in many for roses and I have some spectacular blooms around in the garden.

The big surprise last week was a blue rose not far from my front door. I had forgotten that I had planted this one and do not remember seeing it in flower. I had to pick one and take a photo of it. I guess you could say it is not really blue but it is not really purple either so it is the closest to blue I have ever seen.

I remember Edna having a few roses in the farmhouse garden, not many they were too fussy for her and took too much time to manage but there were some in her parent's garden and she looked after them once she moved from the farm to look after her mother. I do remember her saving any decent rose bloom for the church flowers. Roses went to the altar flowers and she treated them as special, not to be used in any old arrangement. I guess they are really special especially when you have one like this.

quite impressive don't you think?

I have taken some more photos of the roses around the garden. Some of them are so huge they are the size of dinner plates, which was an expression Edna used to describe a huge flower. While she was not huge on decorative plants she always admired gardens and loved to take a picnic with me in the Botanic Gardens and visit the rose garden in the parklands in Adelaide. I know that if she was around today this is a rose that I would have sent her a photo of and the next time I called to see her this is a photo that would have been on the lounge mantelpiece or on her writing desk near her diary. She was never on to boast just show genuine admiration when it was deserved.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On the run this week

This week is one of those on the run weeks. The kind where you wish you could stop the world and make people wait for you so you can take a breather. I really wanted to load up the recipes into the posts by now but it is going to have to wait till the weekend. (I hope this brings me some breathing space!) If anyone out there is reading my blog and wants the recipes let me know and will try to get them loaded sooner.

What I would rather be doing this week is staying out all day in the garden the weather is perfect for it. Last week while it was still raining most days I did get to do some pages in my art and ideas journal. I put any any idea I want to develop into this journal. last week I tried an idea that came from an artist that has inspired me when reading her blog ... more on her later.

This is what I did

Not that good as they are but wanted to try out the idea and I think it has potential so will do some more when I get some time again (or when it is raining)  I love to be able to spend time on my art and ideas journal, it helps so much with stress relief and it helps me find my skills again. The Angels are still a bit raw and I need to do more work on the pages but for now this is how they will stay. I cannot say that Edna or for that matter Vera had an eye for art but both of them did do crafty things so perhaps that counts. Most people used to think doing art was a bit eccentric and was wasting time.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quince in Flower

I have been so busy and not had the time to do another post! October is half gone already and the year is smashing through to Christmas at a rate that scares me! How can time go so fast? I cannot understand how days used to go slowly by and a day seemed to be a day rather than a few hours, a month took ages and a year well that was forever. I cannot help but think that my Grandmothers would not approve of out life today too many demands placed on us by the other people or systems now and this leads to huge stress in our lives. No wonder vintage, recycling and frugal are buzz words at the moment, these are the words in the language of the time we lost in the name of progress which led us to this GFC we had to have! Who could blame anyone for yearning for an age when we had the time to do the mending, make the jam, repurpose clothing and save bits of string! Reading around the blogs I enjoy, so many of them are making choices I have not seen so many women take up since the seventies. This time though they are proud to proclaim it! Edna would have loved this reappearance of so many of her daily skills.

This week I was outside walking over to my office through the back and stopped to take a photo of the Quince Tree in flower. It always brings back memories of Edna, in fact I planted this tree in her memory.
Edna loved quinces and she was the best quince jelly maker even though she did not fuss about her jelly making like some of the women I have listened to. I used to make a real effort to call in to visit her about the time the quinces would be ready just so I could watch her turn these hard inedible fruit with a fur all over them turn into the most beautiful red and fragrant jelly. She used them in desserts as well, stewed quince, baked quince, quince and apple pie all delicious. I remember Vera using quinces too but not as much as Edna. Vera would make quince and apple jam but I do not recall her making jelly, perhaps she did but it did not come out on the table when I was staying.

Quinces will always bring back memories of Edna to me for another rather sad reason. Edna had a huge quince tree right out the back porch, you could see the huge trunk from the back kitchen door. On her last weekend before she was tragically killed in a hit run accident we stood under that quince tree chatting about making quince jelly . It was January and I was almost 8 months pregnant with my third child. Nana always made quince jelly for me each year since I married and I asked her when would these quince be ready because they look so big to me already. She replied that this year the quinces will be ready when your son is born and that she would be able to bring some to the hospital for me. I remember looking at her and she was chuckling with that I know more than you do attitude  she could have! My husband was convinced that this baby would be our third daughter, I felt that it was a boy but did not want to say this out loud and yet here was Nana looking so convincing that she knew this baby would be a boy. I reminded her that it may not be so and we will be happy no matter what sex the baby would be, but she repeated she was sure I  would have a boy, Autumn was the time for boys she said you wait and see. She did not get to see our baby and she did not make the quince jelly that year, but she was right we did have a son and I have had a few tears every year the quince tree flowers for it will always remind me or how precious every moment should be with the people who are close to us.

The flowers do not last  for very long but they are huge and so beautiful  and look like they are just sitting on the tree. I cannot wait for the quince to be ready next year as I am going to make quince jelly again after years of being too busy and I am going to use Edna's recipe! There might even be a baked quince or two! Such a long time to wait, five months, but then again why rush once I have the new batch on the pantry shelf it will last a year (well if I do enough jars!)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Begin the Begin (as they say)

Today I took a look at another blog I was going to keep going but got to be honest with myself this is not going to happen I am still way too busy to do more than I am. I read some of the posts again and really do not want to lose them so decided to cut and past before I delete the other blog. I did not get to do much on that one anyway so this is a cut and paste job which I should have put in the beginning of this blog! Oh begin at the beginning a few months down the track!

Back in November 2008 almost a year ago, these were my thoughts!

Over the last months I have had so many thoughts of changing my life to enable me to focus on those things that are more precious and more important than all else. I want to have more time to enjoy my home and family and more time to spend on my creative urges and remove as much stress out of my life as I can. This is not going to be easy and it is going to take some months, perhaps as much as a year to arrive at the place that is in my mind now! I do have another blog where I record my day as a travel agent and you can read about it here so this one is for the future, for my new life I am going to build. It will always be a bit of travel as I cannot take this out of me but it is going to have more art and craft, more home life, more about my family and me and more about the good fortune I have had in my life from the influence of two amazing women, my Grandmothers. Let me describe them.


Edna Annie was the eldest child, born in 1905 in a small country town not far from Ballarat, to parents who were chasing music careers. My Great Grandparents I am sure were dreamers who had been brought up with privilege and were often not that practical in the early days, which I am sure helped to shape my Grandmother into the strong and practical matriarch she became. Nana lived for over 80 years; her life came to a tragic end when she was killed by a hit and run accident. She was still a tall strong woman and a very capable one who was still helping her family and community and still self sufficient. Her influence on my life has been profound and not a day goes by for me when her memory is not alive so successfully did she train me!

Today we have brought back the 'vintage' into vogue and I am sure I can here her chuckle. Every craft magazine, every craft blog and every Martha Stewart show with recycle, vintage and retro segments and articles I read and view seem to be a rewind of Edna! (with a touch of Vera May but more of her later) Make you own soap! Edna was doing it most of her life. Make your own gift wrap well Edna was famous for recycling gift wrap and ties. Turn an old pair of jeans into a skirt well Edna had mastered the art of revamping clothing before she was out of her teens! I remember as a teenager in the sixties wanting to have the latest swinging Carnaby Street or Bonnie and Clyde 'Sharpie' fashions and Nana would be able to find a piece she had put away that could be adapted to help me out. She was real twenties girl and rising hemlines did not upset her in the way it upset my parents.
Writing about Nana is going to be hard because I have so much on her and there is so much of here around my home. I have her hand-written recipe book started more than 80 years ago and her mother's treadle sewing machine that she also used with drawers stuffed with her notions, the club chairs she had are in the family room much loved, I use one of her glass mixing bowls and some of her baking trays and there are some special pieces of clothing in my wardrobe. I guess you could say I am a hoarder but there is no way I could discard these things as all are used and are practical items. The best way I have decided to record her memory will be to take a day as it comes and post in my blog her recipes as I use them or read them and post the things she taught me as I find myself recalling them. Edna was my paternal Grandmother and if I was not staying with her during school holidays I would almost always be with my maternal grandmother Vera.


Vera Ethel was born in 1906 and as one of 14 children had no option but to grow up being frugal and with a strong need to hand it down and pass it on recycle and reuse and find a good use in what ever it was she had around. Waste not want not is such a good way to describe her but as a family we would often comment when she could not be found that Mumma 'was out digging up rabbits' (and she could have been doing just that!) Mumma had strong words to say on what she thought was right and what was wrong and I do not recall ever discussing Carnaby Street with her! In fact her influence on me came about before I turned 11. Once I became a teenager it was not a passage of life that she could grasp and it was my Grandfather that then stepped in. Vera died suddenly in 1980 when she collapsed under the clothes line as she would still working flat out (though most in the family were not sure what she was doing much of the time) She was practical, yes she was but at times her timing was not! One could find Mumma cutting up fruit picked up after a windfall from where ever she had been (over the fence quite often) for jam when she should have been dressing to go out and that included times of great importance such as one of my Auntie's weddings. Mumma left you very much to your own devices and expected you to bring yourself up as fast as one could because once you were out of nappies that was it as far as she was concerned apart from two things close to her heart. After evening meals and before going to bed she would organise a lesson in needlework. the kitchen table would be cleared and my Grandfather would be reading lessons or marking books or taking notes as he did of his day's work as a teacher and school inspector and I would be sat on the stool with cushions next to Vera while she instructed me in stitching. I did not really see her use this skill on articles around the house though I do remember she made some flash peg bags. These lessons were the same she gave to the primary school students she taught needlework to. The other thing was her commitment to the Women's Christian Temperance Union which meant she would pack each grandchild off to camp to learn the evils of alcohol for our twelfth birthdays only to find much to her horror that we would shortly after have our Confirmation and take altar wine and so she would refuse to attend! More of that story in another post.

Although this blog is about Edna's and it is true here influence was greater on me than any other woman, Vera my maternal Grandmother has a lot to answer for! I would like to record some of that in this blog it makes a lot of sense and the two women knew each other though I do not think they did more than tolerate each other for the sake of family! It was not a friendship as I recall!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Biscuit Making

Once a week Edna made a huge batch of biscuits and if I am sure it would be done on Tuesday mornings. Her usual batch was malt biscuits made in a large quantity and meant to last a week of paddock lunch boxes for my Grandfather and anyone else who happened to be around. The only bought biscuits I ever saw her buy were broken biscuits packed into a brown paper bag and brought home to the farm to make hedgehog. I was allowed to pick out the special bits such as orange creams as a treat! Bought biscuits were an absolute luxury for me then but now I rarely buy them, perhaps because the recipes for biscuits I make are so much more interesting than the ones that Edna made. I could not imagine her making (and nor would anyone else in the 50s) chocolate chip biscuits although years later in the 70s when she went to the USA to stay with my Auntie I note that she copies a recipe for choc chip cookies but by then choc chips had become a pantry staple!

For the last seven years I have not had spare time to make biscuits, but this year as I am winding down my travel business and trying to win my life back I have taken delight in making a batch or two of three! My reasons are similar I am sure to those that Nana had years ago. I can save a lot of money by making our own biscuits, they are quick to make, they keep (that is if you can stop from eating one or two or three a day!) and you know what goes into them!

This morning the biscuit jar was empty and this month our cash flow is tight and so instead of going down to the local supermarket I decided to use up ingredients I had on hand to make a batch of biscuits. A favourite recipe has always been choc chip biscuits with walnuts and I find that as long as the basic ingredients stay the same I can adapt this recipe to suit the nuts or sugars I have on hand. I have used up the walnuts in a delicious apple celery and walnut salad on the weekend (mmm .... always so good to eat with chicken) the pecan jar is empty but there was just over half a cup of peanuts. I remembered that there were two almost empty jars of peanut paste ( okay peanut butter to those who do not live in this part of the world) and I had enough choc chips (only because I had hidden them from the pantry thieves). I reduced the butter by the two tablespoons of peanut paste that I managed to scrape out of the jars, chopped up the peanuts, and used all light brown sugar for a caramelly taste. Wonderful aroma wafted through the house as they cooked. Now the biscuit jar is almost full again ..... some went to my husband with his lunch special delivery by me! Oh and of course I had to have a few with my coffee. Delicious! Edna would have approved, I can see her jotting down the recipe on a scrap of paper now!

Biscuit jar nearly full of choc chop peanut biscuits.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Home made Cordials

Home made fruit cordials are so much better tasting than commercial ones (though I can be swayed by a Bickford's lime but that is for another post!) and they are so simple to make and better for the budget as well. Soft drinks and bought cordials have become everyday items but when I was growing up softdrink was only for Christmas and cordial was made up from a concentrate for Summer Holidays. During the rest of the year we would have home made ginger beer, ice cold milk and a lot of water.... out of the rain water tank of course. I do remember Nana making lemon cordial if and only if there was a good supply of lemons. I do not remember having a lemon tree on the farm, Nana would buy lemons from a street stall or be given some by relatives and friends in Adelaide where it was warmer climate than up in the hills. I seem to remember that lemons needed more care to grow well where the farm was located and anything that required a lot of extra attention would not have been grown, her life was tough enough as it was! Years later when she retired to the city I still do not remember a lemon tree but I do recall Nana having lots of lemons on hand no doubt given to her by all the neighbours and I guess she would not have seen the sense in growing more.

I made two batches of fruit cordial. One lot was made using Blood Oranges and the next lot was made using Meyer Lemons. The Blood Orange cordial is a brilliant rich orange colour and is a bit sweet for our taste if used alone. Mixed with a dash of lemon juice some mint and ice and it becomes a very refreshing drink, and it is especially good mixed with soda water. The lemon cordial is made with the same amount of sugar in the syrup as the orange but has the wonderful tang that lemon juice gives.

If you grow or are given the fruit then the total cost of making cordials is less than a quarter of the cost of buying commercial brands and these do not contain as much pure fruit juice if any at all! The only preservative I use is citric and tartaric acid and of course the sugar. The bottles should be stored in a cool place and will keep for weeks in the fridge. You could of course put them in a water bath to preserve them for longer period but I prefer to make up fresh batches as we need them, it is so much better tasting and as it is so quick to make.