Reindeer,Elves and Decorations

XmasAAAAh! ‘Tis the Silly Season!

Now, I have to admit that I’m not religious in any ‘orthodox’ religions. In Australia we tend to think of kangaroos instead of reindeer, and heat and flies instead of elves and snow, but there is still the decorations all over the place.

How incongruous to be giving cards with snow and snowmen on their covers, how silly it is to feed a family a full roast dinner with a flaming fruit pudding with all the trimmings in the middle of our summer – pity the poor cooks in the kitchen! It isn’t unusual for the day’s temperature to soar into the forties, and there has been the odd time that firemen guests have been taken away from the festivities by the siren call of a fire in the bush.

I really don’t like what the celebration of Christmas has become – commercial codswallop to make you spend money, and ever more expensive gifts that the children and young people of today lust after.

Where are the joys of handmade gifts, made with love throughout the year? Why does Australia continue to glorify the birth of Jesus, when it is fairly widely known that He was born in the Arabian Summer?

I found it even more amazing, when visiting the Buddhist country of Cambodia, to see Christmas paraphernalia every where. When asked why, the general population didn’t know the significance, and just thought it was all ‘very pretty’.

Still … I don’t want to be considered a sad sack, so here is a menu for a summer feast – salads and ice-cream to enjoy.

Watermelon salad:

lettuce (any type – your choice), Watermelon, cucumber, feta cheese or similar, pickled onions and dressing ( mayonnaise mixed with olive oil and salt and pepper.)

You may notice I haven’t given any quantities – it depends on whether it is intended for one or a crowd! For one:- A small handful of lettuce leaves, broken  into small chunks, a slice of watermelon cubed (If you want to get fancy, try cutting with cookie cutters into wmelonhearts, stars or Christmas tree shapes), 1/2 cup of diced cucumber, a handful of crumbled feta and several small pickled onions, sliced. Mix together a tablespoon of mayo with a slurp of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over, then mix into the ingredients all tossed together in a bowl.

For a crowd? – just multiply the ingredients!

For omnivores – a lovely cold roast chicken or leg of lamb or cold whole prawns (or all choices for a crowd) sliced onto a self-serve plate are great accompaniments to salads.

For vegetarians? Add a main meal of :-  Mixed vegetable Quiche.

Take a handful of any vegetables you have on hand and cut them into small cubes. This could be carrot, capsicum, onion or leek, and zucchini. you can add a small tin of corn kernels, tiny florets of broccoli and cauliflower, as well as anything else you desire.

Add the vegetables to well beaten eggs. Use 2 for a small quiche, and 6 to 8 for a large one. Pour into a pastry case (bought or made by you) and cook in a moderate oven until eggs are firm and golden. Grated cheddar cheese can be sprinkled on top if you wish. Pop it back into the oven for a few moments to melt the cheese. Allow to cool to serve.

Top the meal off with a lovely dessert. ANYTHING with home-made ice-cream (see recipes in archives – I think May?? ). An Australian specialty is Fruit Pavlova.

You can buy the meringue base from the supermarket (try minis meringue shells if you are on your own) and add lashings of sweetened whipped cream topped with seasonal fruit – whatever is your favourite.Pavlova.jpg

P.S. Remember to look at my second and third pages for children’s books as gifts, and original art and limited edition prints for someone special.FLOW

readeatdream.net/sweetfields-products-and-mykelcee-designs

readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-bookBookcover2

 

 

Rivers, Essentials and Detergent.

Warning – I’m on my soapbox! (Note the recipe at the end!)

soap

One of the hot topics at present is the way the human race is polluting the planet. In Australia we have a program called ‘War on Waste’ which is, hopefully, waking up an apathetic population. ( http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/war-on-waste )

Waste not only destroys our immediate surrounds, but affects so much more. The consumer mentality means we buy, buy, buy – and often for no more than to meet a greed not a need. The more we buy, not only is there more waste, but great swathes of land are cleared to make way for more product – whether it is a fad – like palm oil or some latest gadget – or a luxury, like toys that are bigger and better than the next door neighbours. This includes TVs, cars and jewelry, as well as children’s toys that are played with once until boredom sets in and we have to buy more, more, more. And yet in the poorer countries, even the essentials are hard to come by.

Have you ever watched a child play with a cardboard box, a wooden spoon and a great imagination? Basics can be better than all the luxuries in the world.garbage

I’m not asking that people go without, but to be more mindful of what they own, want and buy.

When plastics are finally outlawed, we will hopefully go back to more sustainable ways of wrapping food and products.

A lot of the rubbish ends up in pristine waterways (affecting the wildlife), rivers (affecting the eco-system) and oceans (affecting the fish and sea creatures.) I’m wondering if we will ever learn.

The destruction of the planet means the ultimate destruction of ourselves.

Let’s go back to having only the essentials – a home with fresh food in the cupboards, a couple of art works for aesthetics, and a few books for education. Clothes that are made by the industry of our own hands and tools that are used over and over, not thrown away after one use.

The problem with all that, is it is too much work for most people – much easier to go to the shop and buy goods that are laced with chemicals to give them more shelf life, or electronic games to keep ourselves amused.

Growing your own food seems to have lost its popularity, preserving the harvest is tied up with too much legislation, and making your own clothes is now frowned upon as unfashionable.

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Some of my gardening guides (for a temperate zone) that can give you the knowledge to start a garden.

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We need to go back to basics. Do you agree?

Here is a simple and more healthy way of making a detergent to wash your clothes – it is cheap and easy to make, and gentle on your clothes and the environment.

clothesHOME MADE Washing Detergent.

Water, 1 grated cake of pure soap ( in Australia we have Sunlight brand) 1 cup of powdered washing soda, some eucalyptus oil or similar (for fragrance).

In a special large saucepan used only for this job, place 2 litres of water. Add the grated soap, and heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it is dissolved. Bring to the boil. Add the cup of washing soda, stirring to dissolve. Be careful – it bubbles up.

Now tip this into a 20 litre container. Add hot water to half way, then about 5 litres of cold water to make approximately 15 or more litres of detergent. Stir in your fragrance oil. Allow to cool. Use two scoops per wash.

It will separate out into a solid sludge and water, but it is all useful. In your scoop make sure there is some solid soap as well as the water. This costs me about $2 per bucketful, and lasts about 3 months.

I love the challenge of making products to eat, use or wear, as well as budgeting – getting more for the few dollars I have, as I am on a pension. I find I can still have a good qualiity of life, and I eat healthy food. The other benefit? Because I’m always busy, I am never bored and I stay fit.

What more could you really want?

With Kindness

Maureen

P.S.  Don’t forget to have a wander through the second ( readeatdream.net/sweetfields-products-and-mykelcee-designs )  and third pages ( readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-book )to learn more about me and mine.panda2

FLOW

Refuse, Effervescence and Doodles

Writing about something every fortnight and not becoming boring and downright horrible is not easy. At this point in time, my blog posts always have R.E.D. type titles, and the challenge is to tie the three words into a believable context.

So here we go!

Refuse to understand? Or is it the refuse that we throw away? It is a very hot topic at the moment – Waste! The detritus of human life. The rubbishing of our planet.garbage

And so it should be.

We can refuse to acknowledge the damage we are doing to this beautiful planet, living in the delusion of effervescent champagne and luxury, doodling around with our noses in the air, blaming the unknown hoards – the poor and uneducated – for the state of our environment.

Or we can do something about it.

Start to live our lives without the pull of ‘things’. Stop being brainwashed by the big corporations to buy, buy, buy. Material goods and chattels mean nothing, and can be taken away from us in a flash. And  are ultimately left behind when we die and then someone else has to clean up the mess.

Live your life close to the Earth. Grow what food you need, make your own clothes, recycle what you can. Compost your scraps. Give away your used and no longer useful items. Stop being scared of your life, and search for happiness in other ways.

Even if you live without a garden, or a place that’s safe, you can think. That is the greatest of Human’s gifts. Consider what you can do. A small container for compost, one less dress to wear that can go to a more unfortunate person, a pot of earth on a balcony or stairway with herbs growing to share with your neighbours  to make your food more palatable, or a hug and a smile and a handmade present for those around you instead of a plastic gift that breaks the first time it is used, and to top it off, was wrapped in plastic that adds to the rubbish pile as well.

I love gardening – the satisfaction of growing something to eat, knowing it is fresh and tasty is a wonderful feeling. Of course, it isn’t as magical as Jack and his beanstalk. you can’t just throw in a handful of seeds and next day find a beautiful plant. It takes time and effort. Bugs enjoy a good feed, too. The weeds enjoy well dug and fertilized soil – so there is plenty of competition.

Start by growing something you like to ear, that’s hardy and suits your area. No point in growing zucchini if you hate them! zuc

There are plenty of books and hints everywhere if you really want to learn. Vegetables like a decent soil, and you need to boost the soil to give them the nutrition they need ( if you grow a spindly underfed broccoli, then you also don’t get the nutrients from the plant either).

Making compost, using weeds in water to create a liquid fertilizer and making sure they have enough water without drowning them will see a healthy and flourishing garden.

Would you like more help with gardening ideas?

With kindness

Maureen.

P.S. the next chapter of ‘In search of the Elusive Panda’ is up on my next page. (readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-book ). Also the paperback is now launched and available from me for $15AU. Free postage within Australia.panda2

 

 

 

Return, Ebooks and Determination

One thing you can say about me – I have determination!

Every time life knocks me over, I get up and, like the old song, dust myself off and start all over again.

Although you might not realize it, I’ve been on this planet for 7 decades, and I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve been married (twice), had two children, (lost 4 to miscarriage), been abused, been praised and been loved. But, whatever comes my way, I get up and face life again.

I have returned to the one thing I have loved, and wanted, all my life – the country.

I have 12 acres of beauty, on which I grow as much food as I can, keep chickens for eggs,  and pick the vegetables and fruit as fresh as possible.

I also have bees for honey and pollination and to save the wonderful creatures from the foibles of mankind and his destruction, with poisons, of their pristine flowers. A byproduct of honey ain’t half bad either.meandbees

I teach music and do the occasional market with my fresh produce.

Since I’ve been by myself, I’ve turned my hand to writing. Another love. (see viewAuthor.at/MaureenLarter as well as viewAuthor.at/MargueriteWellbourne )

I love to write for children because I believe every child has the right to the opportunity to learn, and books, I hope, prod their natural curiosity. One thing that annoys me though. Children’s books should be read while the child is on a parent’s lap. E-books just don’t have the same ambiance. And to further complicate the problem, picture books just don’t sit correctly on an e-reader.

Now, I self-publish – at my home. My books are all in print form as paperbacks. Something you can hold, love and smell. Just pop my name into the URL bar to have an idea of what I do. If you want one, don’t hesitate to message me.

Now that I’ve told you a bit about me – here’s something for you.

Did you know you can use mashed potato in a cake?

Yummy Bun:-

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup mashed potatoes, 1 cup SR flour, 1 cup wholemeal flour, ¾ cup sugar, 1 tspn salt, 1 ½ cup mixed dried fruit/sultanas, 1 cup milk.

Icing:

1 cup icing sugar, 1 tspn vanilla essence, 1-2 tblspns lemon juice and water, 2-3 drops food colouring (optional)

  1. Pre-bunheat oven to 180-200°C.
  2. Place mashed potatoes in a bowl and add sugar. Mix well.
  3. Add fruit.
  4. Sift flours and salt together.
  5. Add to potato mixture alternately with milk.
  6. Place in two greased loaf tins or one large cake tin.
  7. Bake for approx 45 mins.
  8. Remove from pan/s and allow to cool slightly. Ice while still just warm.
  9. Icing: mix all ingredients until it is a stiff consistency.
  10. Cut into slices to serve. Maybe buttered if you desire. Serves 6-8.

I hope you enjoy this tasty treat.

More from me in a fortnight.  Remember to check out my next two pages – the next chapter of my book is free to read on page two, and some art for sale on page three.

With kindness

Maureen

Roasts, Eucalyptus and Depression.

I remember when I was young – (don’t you just hate those type of comments, you know, like:– ‘In the olden days’ etc) – the Sunday roast was the highlight meal of the week. The rest of the week was meat and 3 veg – every night!

Haven’t we come a long way in our culinary tastes. Even this recipe includes sweet potato, which wasn’t in my childhood.

Roast potato, pumpkin and sweet potato mix.

roast

2 kg potatoes, peeled, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1.2 kg sweet potato, peeled and cut into large pieces, 1/4 cup olive oil, sea salt flakes, 1.2 kg piece of pumpkin, seeds removed and cut into large pieces.

  1. Preheat oven to 200°c.
  2. Peel potatoes and place in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil over high heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and cool.
  3. Use a fork to rough up the surface. Place potatoes in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and toss until well coated. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes.
  4. Remove seeds from pumpkin. Cut into large pieces. Peel sweet potato and cut into large pieces. Place pumpkin and sweet potato in a roasting pan. Add olive oil and toss until well coated. Roast for 1 hour or until golden and cooked through. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes to serve.

When Europe was still under the effects of WW2, and depression and rations were everywhere, our family saved hard and paid our passage to Australia. It was a young and vibrant country, and everyone agreed.  The influx of migrants began. We saw the arrival of Italians, Lebanese and even Germans. There were a lot of prejudice in those days, and worse still when the Asian ‘invasion’ occurred.

Now we live, mostly, in harmony. And the benefits certainly outweighed the disadvantages.

Before this time, I’d never heard of eggplant, broccoli, sweet potato or zucchini. Now these are common delicacies.

zucNowadays, I grow all of these vegetables, and more. The zucchini is abundant, and when in season, produces far more than we could possibly eat. So… what to do with all of them (before they grow to torpedo size!) ?

Here is a recipe that can be eaten hot or cold (ideal for school lunches, too!) and adds some extra vegetables in as well.

Zucchini slice:-

½ cup brown rice, 1 carrot, grated, 1 or 2 zucchini, grated, 1 small can corn kernels, drain, wash, ¼ cup chopped chives, 1 cup cheese, grated, extra grated cheese for top, ¾ cup SR flour, 4 eggs, ½ cup milk, ¼ cup sweet chilli sauce (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 180-200°. Grease and prepare a slice tin
  2. Cook rice to instructions on packet. Allow to cool.
  3. Combine rice, carrot, zucchini, corn, chives, cheese and flour in a large bowl.
  4. Whisk eggs, chilli sauce and milk together in a jug.
  5. Add to rice mixture and mix well.
  6. Spread in tin, sprinkle with extra cheese, then bake for approx 35 mins, until cooked through and lightly browned.
  7. Stand in pan for 20 mins then slice and serve hot or cold. Serves 8.

And while we are at it – here’s a yummy pickles too.:-

Sweet Zucchini/Cucumber Pickles:zuccs

Slice 5 kg zucchini and/or cucumber and 5 kg onions thinly. Soak overnight in a 3/4 cup salt in water.

Next morning drain and rinse. Place in a vinegar mixture of 5 cups white vinegar and 5 cups white sugar. Add 1 teaspn of mustard and 1 teaspn of turmeric. Bring to the boil and boil for about 10-15 minutes. I then added thickener.(about quarter cup and tblspn cornflour). Place in hot, sterilized jars and seal.

I actually halved the zucchini, onions and cucumber, but kept the rest as it was, which is why I needed to put some thickener in it. You could possibly add a little less sugar, too. If you halve everything that may not be needed.

And just in case you’d rather sit out under the Eucalyptus trees or on the verandah, with wine glass filled with your favourite tipple, you can even make Zucchini chips, doused in a tasty spice powder mixture.

Zucchini crisps:-

Slice zucchinis thinly then deep fry in an oil of your choice. Scoop out and place on absorbent paper to remove excess oil, then tumble in a bag of spice mix. The spice mix can include garlic powder, grated Parmesan cheese, chili powder and/or any other combination that suits your taste. You can always experiment!

With kindness

Maureen

P.S. – lots of recipes today – nice to jumble up my blog sometimes.

Also – chapter 7 of ‘In Search of the Elusive Panda’ is up on my second page:-panda2(readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-book)

and another example of Mykey’s Art (already sold) on third page:- (readeatdream.net/sweetfields-products-and-mykelcee-designs)

Squidhands(dylan)web

 

Recreation, Elephants and Drama.

It’s nearly time for me to bite the travel bullet and book my ticket to return to Cambodia. It doesn’t seem possible that it is nearly two years ago that I spent time there, teaching English. I am so looking forward to seeing all the students again.paddy

This time, however, I will be only going as recreation – a short holiday to catch up with everyone. The village where I stayed, was about 80 kms from Siem Reep and gave me an insight to the real lives of the people. After the drama of the previous despots and their regimes, the country is slowly poking it’s nose into the 21st century with the young people once more wanting education, and aiming for great things. This had previously been squashed and I could still feel the fear rippling below the surface with the older generation.

The fantastic Angkor Wat was amazing, and any photos you see, just don’t do it justice. I felt an awesomeness being able to touch history instead of only looking at museum specimens.Angkor

Several other moments were not so nice – seeing elephants used in the tourist trade was offset by seeing marauding monkeys taking their revenge on tourist handbags – abject poverty and people and children working in the hot sun, or scavenging for food contrasting with the opulent hotels for the tourist dollar – rubbish littering the streets and the smell of fresh sewerage compared to the sweetness of the interior of the incense in a village pagoda, were all a little off-putting.

But having said all that, I am really looking forward to returning to a wonderful people.

So what can I say about the food? My first meal of frog and morning glory vine will always make a lasting impression – and it certainly upset the bacteria in my stomach – but, other than the ubiquitous rice, the food was wonderful. The cooks at the Opportunity Cambodia ( https://opportunitycambodia.org.au ) sites went out of their way to make me comfortable and well fed.

I’d love to put a recipe up, but the cookbooks available bring you only the best – and I ate the village, homely food – and didn’t ask the cooks for the recipe!! In fact – even if I had –  they couldn’t speak English, and I couldn’t speak Khmer!mg

With Kindness

Maureen

P.S. just a quick reminder – chapter 6 (of ‘In Search of the Elusive Panda’ ) is now ready to read on my next page. ( readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-book ).

panda2

Also, page three ( readeatdream.net/sweetfields-products-and-mykelcee-designs ) has Mykel’s original artwork for sale.Sparkle 40cmx40cm

Recycling, Edam and Dollars

Woohoo!

Back to some more of my loves. Last week I spoke about my love for ‘Classical’ music – from Beethoven to the Beatles, and Bach to Bacharach! Now let’s look at some other wonderful interests.

I love making things from scratch.

I think it is a lost art – or almost. I hate the way we have become used to buying our food in supermarkets. We race in, grab some processed food and don’t think of the way it is made. We also don’t think of the poor farmers at the bottom of the ladder, who do all the work and get the least praise and appreciation for it.

Gradually people are becoming conscious of the additives in food, from preservatives to chemicals, not only in every day food stuffs, but in cleaning products, personal products and snacks. The manufacturers have to make sure that products – even the humble apple – must stay fresh and appealing for a long time in transit to outlets, then onto shelves for display.

I love to make everything I can.

I garden organically to grow my own fruit and vegetables. I have chickens for eggs, cows for milk and bees for honey.

meandbees

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I know not everyone can do these things, due to lack of space (I have 12 acres – you may live in an apartment!!), lack of time ( I’m now retired, but belonging to the workforce takes up a great chunk of time.

In my last 18 years on my property, I have grown everything from peanuts to plums, elderberries to eggplant and much else besides.

I have made soft cheeses (haven’t yet made hard cheeses like Edam, and Cheddar – isn’t it wonderful that there is so much more to learn), yoghurt, butter, cakes, ice-cream, ghee, and more.

I recycle everything I can – I have shelves of empty glass bottles that I fill with jams, relishes, sauces and pickles. I pick up old unsold papers from the local newsagent and shred them for compost and litter in my chook ( an Australian slang word for chickens) pen. I ask anyone who has old fridges and freezers that no longer work to bring them to me and I make gardens in them. And, with all this activity, I manage to stay healthy and busy – not bored and lazy!

To top it all off – it helps me to save dollars in my budget, so I can occasionally treat myself to some useful farm clothes from the op shops as well as brand new underwear from a couple of local businesses.

Perhaps this recipe might be something you are looking for:-

Home made ice-cream.ice4

Ingredients – milk, sugar and cream.

(Flavours can be added – only limited by your imagination – try crushed honeycomb, or blueberries, or chocolate chips or simple vanilla essence or crushed up after dinner mints or ….. you get the picture!).

First – make your condensed milk.

(1 litre of full cream milk – 2 cup of white sugar – 1/2 tspn baking soda) – I don’t use the baking soda – my son is allergic to all preservatives and extras – I have to be careful to use ‘pure’ ingredients!!

Heat the milk to boiling point, then add the sugar. Stir continuously (BE PATIENT) until the mixture starts to thicken. This can take some time – 15mins or more. Watch it all the time – it can boil over very easily. Add the baking soda if desired. Continue cooking and stirring until the desired thickness. Take off the heat and allow to cool. (this can be kept in the ‘fridge for about 3 weeks.) From this recipe I made approximately 600ml – the equivalent of one tin’s worth.

Now whip the cream until light, thick and fluffy. Fold in the condensed milk (if you haven’t time to make the condensed milk – one 600ml tin will be the option) and any flavouring you desire. Freeze. Serve.

Simple, isn’t it?

Enjoy.

With Kindness

Maureen

panda2P.S. The next chapter (4) of ‘The search for the Elusive Panda’ is up on my second page (readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-book ) If you missed the previous chapters and would like to read them, email me at maureenlarter@gmail.com and I will send them to you. Let me know which chapters you need.

On the third page (readeatdream.net/sweetfields-products-and-mykelcee-designs ) are the stunning original art works by Mykel. Unfortunately simple pictures don’t do the works justice. They are vibrant and beautiful.