Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Homemaking - What I don't do.

I was trying to think of a topic for a new blog post and it occurred to me that when it comes to homemaking that we tend to use our blogs to tell others what we do - the food we bake, the rooms we decorate, the gardens we plant. If you have followed my blog you would be aware that I bake my own bread, grow some of our own food, teach my children at home, love to decorate my home at Christmas and have recently set up a family business. I have been asked by others how I do it all and the answer to that question is 'I don't.' There are many things I don't do - oh I would love to do many of these things but I have come to realize that I will never master every homemaking art, that I will fail miserably at some and that there are only 24 hours in a day and I must determine which of the home arts and household activities I choose to pursue and those I will let go.... so here is a list of some of the tasks I don't do. You might be surprised but I have my reasons. That is not to say I will never do them.  There are seasons in a woman's life and who knows, maybe I'll dust that sewing machine off one day in the future. All I ask is that you don't judge me if I never get round to doing some of the following things...


1.Make my own laundry powder/liquid. I know many of you do. I made up a batch once and was disappointed with the results. It was also another activity to add to my ever growing 'to do' list that needed some serious editing and this was one task that I chose to take off and I don't feel guilty about it. I buy an Australian made phosphate free/septic tank safe laundry powder in bulk from the automotive parts shop - actually my husband usually buys it. As he is in the automotive trade he can buy it at a reduced rate.... after all mechanics do have dirty overalls that need washing! It's very reasonably priced and lasts us for ages.

2. Knit my own dishcloths I never learned to knit though I do know how to cast on and can do a few rows of garter stitch but that's the extent of my mastery of this home art. I was inundated with booties/jumpers/hats from the knitters among my family and friends when I had babies so had no need to pick up the needles and knitting never became a skill I needed to master. Am I upset about this? No, it's not something I am very drawn to but I can understand why many find it therapeutic. I'm happy to admire their creations and occasionally even buy a knitted item and in doing so support a local, handmade business and I'm grateful to those who buy the handcrafted cake stands and soy candles in teacups I make.

3. Make my own soap/beauty products I've certainly considered it. I have books with recipes for all manner of homemade beauty products. I know with some time invested I could master it - would have to be in the evenings when my young children are not around as caustic ingredients are involved in the process but it's another activity to add to the list. There are lots of soap makers in my region. I have friends who make soap. So for now I'm purchasing local handmade goats milk soap - the one I buy is long lasting and doesn't turn to a gloopy mess on the vanity. I'm very happy with it.

My twins in matching outfts.
Skirts and bows are handmade but not by me!

4. Sew my children's clothes - very often. I can sew, I own a sewing machine, I can transfer a pattern, I know what tailor's tacks are and what a seam allowance should be. I sigh when I see the beautiful hand sewn dresses that some mothers make for their girls. If I am honest, machine sewing frustrates me -when fabric puckers or a seam is not straight. My back is turned when at the sewing machine and I need to concentrate as I am very much a novice. I cannot give my attention to younger children as I can when I bake. My house falls into disarray if I sit for too long at the machine. I sometimes find hand sewn dresses  for my girls at garage sales for just a few dollars and take delight in that but I buy most of our family's clothing online from a company that sells many designer garments at drastically reduced prices. Most of the time I am paying less than the cost of fabric and patterns. Recently, I needed a liner for a vintage picnic basket. I had found some gorgeous vintage fabric covered in roses. I considered making the liner myself but decided to ask a friend who is a skilled sewer and pay her for her time. She did a beautiful job. I did not feel guilty!

 5. Have an immaculate home. If you were to call over now you would find skateboards/scooters on the patio that could really do with a good sweep - when you live surrounded by trees, leaves on the patio are a constant.. Only needs a breeze. Gumboots piled at the door. All good intentions of organized shoe storage after adding numerous pins on my 'beautiful storage' board on pinterest have not been realized. If you come to my house and see the boots in a neat row please realize I did that frantically 5 minutes before you arrived! There are signs of children everywhere - legos, blanket cubby houses/dens and a trail of peach foam bullets down the hallway. Signs of mum everywhere - stacks of plates and china on the buffet unit and a huge drill press on the dining room table. Signs of dad and ongoing renovations - power tools and piles of Bunnings receipts. Signs of life in this home. People live here and do stuff!

6. Make every meal from scratch. I love to use fresh ingredients and most of our meals are cooked at home but I do make use of some pre-prepared ingredients. I always have jars of Aldi's organic pasta sauce in the pantry to make a speedy spag bol on days when we are running late. You will find snap frozen vegetables in my freezer and a jar of preservative free curry paste in the fridge together with a tub of Greek yoghurt and Aldi's feta cheese. I don't make my own pasta and I don't feel guilty about that but I would feel guilty about using pesto from a jar right now to stir through pasta as I have a huge crop of basil in the garden. It's quick and easy to make so the pesto is homemade but the pasta is not. I'm okay with that.

7.Always shop at farmers markets. I used to have an idealistic picture of the shopper I would be. It featured me in a flowing dress, wicker basket in hand perusing organic produce at the farmer's markets and selecting cheeses to pop into my basket along with a bouquet of flowers at the trendy deli store. The reality is a 30 minute dash around Aldi. I shop there because it saves me money and time, they have a good organic range and Australian olive oil at an affordable price. I don't shop at the deli for cheeses, pickles and oils because I can't afford their prices. There is rarely a bouquet popping out of my basket - it would cut my grocery budget and I can fill up jars with herbal bouquets from my garden for free. I shop less at the farmer's market after the last stall that had all organic produce at reasonable prices (and my main reason for visiting the markets) had to pull out of the market - I was informed by the stallholder, a result of losing funding for the supported employment project that ran the market garden and stall. I'm still bewildered about that.

8 Fret anymore over the things I never achieved or have mastered. I have mentioned this before - I am a failure at making macarons. Two attempts resulted in pastel pancakes. Still tempted to give it one more go because I know how good they look on my cake stands. I don't really care if they are a flop again. I'll be happy to stick to fair dinkum Aussie afternoon tea fare - slices, thick and chunky and rolled in coconut or dusted with icing sugar which will still be served and enjoyed at afternoon tea for years to come! Cake decorating is another skill that has eluded me so no Lightening McQueen cakes for my boy's birthday. I  have no plans to join classes. As long as the cake has candles my children are happy!

These are more things I do not do but don't have time to list them all. I don't have guests every weekend even though hospitality is a passion of mine. I've kept this list to homemaking but there are other activities I don't do. I don't play the piano and we are not a musical family unless you count singing in the shower or worship time at church. I don't go to the gym, cycle, run or power walk. I don't have elaborate skin and make up routines. I don't write ebooks, speak at conferences or attend committee meetings. I don't run a ladies Bible study or lead any ministry programme at church. (We are involved as a family in a ministry to international students.) I don't keep this blog updated as much as I would like to.

What are some of the things around the home that you don't do? What do you not make from scratch? What are your homemaking/cooking shortcuts? What did you try but never master? Do you ever feel the pressure to accomplish all those homemaking projects you see pinned on pinterest or blogged about on blogs? To be good at lots of things and have 'pinworthy' pictures to prove it?


 A cake stand awaits macarons but I'm sure the family will not mind if they never eventuate!

Maybe next time I will share about my third attempt at macarons when my oven gets fixed. Still waiting on the part it needs and for the electrician to come back and fix it so all baking is on hold at the moment. Will it work or will I only have pastel crazy paving spread across my baking tray? Might be a fun post. If enough people dare me to try it I might give it a go, take pictures along the way and post them whatever the outcome.

May your Easter be most blessed as we celebrate life and remember the One who died and rose again that we might live and enjoy His presence forever.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pull-apart Breads and Garden Harvests

Sweet or Savoury? It's up to you with this simple recipe for a sweet or savoury 'pull apart' that uses the pizza dough cycle of a bread machine and is later baked in the oven after a short rising time. You could make it by hand of course but I usually opt for the convenience of the 45 minute pizza/French bread dough cycle of my Panasonic bread machine - purchased for $5 at a garage sale a few years ago. I have since found a friend another Panasonic to replace her old one, had to pay $15 but still worth it she says - they are the best bread machines!

For savoury scrolls all you do is leave out the sugar and rather than sprinkling sugar and cinnamon over the melted butter before rolling up you choose a savoury filling - cheese, herbs and garlic perhaps or my favourite - sun dried tomatoes, spinach (I have a year round supply in my garden!) and feta cheese. I make this bread at least 3 times a week because it is so easy. I favour the savoury version because I often make a sweet sourdough bread by hand with apricots and almonds. I will put the dough on at morning tea time and it is ready to bake to come hot and fresh out of the oven at lunchtime. You will find savoury pull apart breads at Brumby's and Baker's Delight but they cost a lot more than a conventional loaf. Why buy when they are so easy to make at home? And I must add the shop versions seem very stingy as they are rather 'flat'  - we would need two if not three to feed our family at one meal. That's at least a $12 purchase.

Into the bread machine pan add the following
4 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
21/2 tsps dried yeast
1/2 cup sugar (omit if you want savoury)
1/3 cup approx soft butter
1 egg
1 cup of warm milk

Start up your dough cycle and for me just 45 minutes later (as I get on with other things) the dough is ready to be rolled out. I roll mine out on some baking paper into a rectangular shape.
Brush lightly with melted butter and sprinkle over your filling of choice. You could use dried fruit with brown sugar or rapadura for a sweet filling. I always try to have green and red in my savoury filling ingredients as they peek through the scrolls when baked and look very appetizing! Roll up lengthwise into a sausage shape and cut into slices. I usually mange to get a dozen out of one roll. Place close together on a baking paper lined round tray or cake tin  in a circle for a circular pull apart. Leave a gap in the centre if you want a ring/wreath. I usually use a spring form rectangular tin. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about an hour in a warm place. Bake for about 20- 25 minutes until risen and golden in a hot oven. I use the fan bake setting at 180/190 c. The rolls usually rise up and fill the tin as shown in my picture.

For lunch we usually slice our savoury rolls and fill with salad and cheese or tuna. They are also great to serve with soup. I serve mine on a bread board for people to share and pull apart at the table.

Enjoy! Thought you would like to know what our garden is producing at the moment

Bananas! The recent storms brought down some of our banana trees but thankfully the bunches were ready. They ripened quickly and it's been banana bread heaven around here the past few weeks. Secret ingredient aside from very ripe bananas for the best banana bread - sour cream or Greek yoghurt. Result is delicious, moist banana bread!

Lebanese cress. I have sung its praises before. We have a never-ending supply. We grow one batch in a large pot but you want to see how it grows in or near water - prolific. When the lettuces wilt or go to seed we always have this amazing salad micro green/herb to fall back on.

Cherry guavas and passion fruit. Have abundant crops of these fruits this year. I have made one batch of guava jelly but need to make some more. My house smells of passion fruit at the moment! The vine that covers the chicken house is loaded. The children have been eating passion fruit for weeks now - they love them and bring up basket loads each day. I will have to declare today a jam making day. Or do I make lime cordial? The Tahitian lime gave a very good crop this year. We also picked our first kaffir lime yesterday and the rosella plants we only put in a few months ago produced - rosella chutney is amazing. We had just enough to make a couple of jars - already consumed. I also have it on good advice that there are Davidson plums on one of the trees we planted in the orchard. Not quite ready yet which is good - I haven't ventured down there recently because of my aversion (and allergic reactions) to leeches which are just everywhere after all the recent rain. I even have leeches outside the door and have found them in the house - yikes, pass the salt!

Time to plant again soon - autumn has arrived and in some ways it is even better than spring. The soils have been watered with the late summer rains and the raised beds are ready. The sun came out yesterday for the first time in weeks and was a cause for much rejoicing. Children were climbing trees, a son managed to have a tennis lesson and I actually folded some dry towels. Proud to say I never used the dryer once - it really ought to be retired completely as it has not been used for years, not since we put up our ladders inside and added a line under the veranda.

Time to go and make some bread and jam and hope you don't mind me blogging about such humble things!


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