discovering a simpiler life

discovering a simpiler life

Thursday, 22 January 2015


Tuesday was a very exciting day in our house as we finally, after many years of wanting and willing and waiting, our little ladies arrived to Chateaux le spoilt chook house.  This deluxe hotel was cleverly crafted by Mr.GW and almost all of it is made out of an old swing set with all parts repurposed.  I'll do a full blog on that another time....Lets get some introductions happening first and show you some baby photos!!

This is Fiona, and she is the under dog who had a run in with a bad hairdresser.  After the first full day of watching after her, it's clear she has some spunk about her and should perk up in no time.
Peak a boo!!
Fiona again, very curious of me...behind her you can see the self feeders that Mr.GW made out of polly pipe.  He also made a self waterer, so the ladies can be all set for days need be.  She is standing on what use to be the double swing of the old swing set.
Princess Penelope and Charlie although I can't tell them much apart at the moment.  Yes, thats their very own roost swing, you know for kicking back in the sun.
Room with a view! This is my girl Nigella.
I can't tell you how happy and heart warming this makes me feel.  They are 14 weeks old so around 6-7 weeks for them to settle in and make friends.  Within the first few hours they had used the feeder and worked out the waterer, which is a little thing they peck and water comes out - so clever my girls!  They did on the other hand need help up into bed, but sometimes a lady needs a hand.

Ok, I'm off, I need to make my cuppa and see that rock on the left hand side out side the cage?  I'll be there in 5 minutes to watch the sun come up, take out some bread scraps and see how my ladies are going.

Ciao, Jan x

Sunday, 18 January 2015

the rhythm of my life

"I am grateful for what I am and have.  
My thanksgiving is perpetual.  
It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite - only a sense of existence.
My breath is sweet to me.  O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches.  
No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is no possession but enjoyment.

If the day and night are such that you greet them with joy,
 and life emits a fragrance like flowers
sweet smelling herbs - is more elastic, starry, and immortal - that is your success."

Henry David Thoreau

Ciao, Jan x

Friday, 16 January 2015

apricot jam with a chia twist

Those of you who read my blog regularly, know I've been keenly awaiting my apricots.  They were deliciously juicy and sweet but there was only 11 of them so they were eaten, quickly!  A friend bestowed on me a bag of unripened babies a week ago, I rubbed my hands with was jam time!  I left the fruit in a big round enamel bowl but you could use a baking tray.  The point is to not have them piled up on themselves too much.  I lined it with paper towel and popped them lovingly into the linen press.  There they stayed in the dark for around 3 days.  I did check them daily, and any that were ripening too quickly went into the fridge.
the apricots before being left in the dark

Now, I do not profess to being any sort of expert at all in the jam or preserves stakes.  I'm a very, new beginner but what I do have is an adventurous cooking spirit , which will either be ah-mazing or be my undoing.  I've been reading about and talking to my Nan lots about pectin lately thrill seekers, as it seems I need to be wary of him.  I don't want to use anything artificial if I can help it so I need him to work for me.  I've learnt that if you take the seeds and/or pips of your fruit and pop that in an old clean tea towel (cotton variety and one that is thin and not fluffy) or muslin if you aren't a tight you know what like me :), and pop that in with your brew.  I've also learnt that you shouldn't stir your jam too much nor start it on high heat as this also messes and can kill the pectin too.
3 days later
I was reading Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella's recipe of apricot and almond jam, and I did some other research which lead me to my recipe.  

Apricot and chia jam
2.2kg's apricots
1kg sugar
4 tspns lemon juice
5 peelings of orange
a tspn or 2 of chia seeds for each jar
swatch of muslin or a clean cotton tea towel

Wash, pip (keep them babies) and cut them into bite sized chunks - around each half into 3-4 then cut them in half again, cutting off a few bad bits along the way.  

Grab yourself a saucer or a small plate and put it in the freezer, this will help you know when your jam is set.

Plop the apricots into a large saucepan.  Mix through, very gently, the sugar.  I let them macerate for an hour, but you can leave it longer or even overnight but I was too impatient for that.  Lots of liquidy sugary juice is released then.

Place your orange peel (you can of course use lemon, I just didn't have any) and apricot pips into the cloth and bind it up with kitchen twine or cotton.

Put onto a low to medium heat, with the lid on and resist the temptation to stir.  You should have a good amount of juice leeched out to avoid the sugar burning.  At this stage turn your oven on to around 150 c.

After 5-10 minutes, raise the temperature to high and once bubbling, skim off any scum that rises to the surface.  Put your washed jars into the oven and after around 10 minutes (although, keep an eye on it as you don't want apricot stew, you do want to keep some fruit chunks, so you can turn it down some what)  take the plate out of freezer and put a small spoonful on it and run your finger through and see if it stays separated.  Mine was still slightly not there so I let it bubble for a minute or 3 more.  

Now is where you need to act quickly and safely! Hot jam + hot jars remember.  Get yourself a ladle, a jug and a plate.  I don't like using oven mits personally, I like to use a dry tea towel and grab a jars out one at a time as it feels safer.  I  added chia seeds just before you get to the top and stir them through.  Ok, confession, I did add the chia seeds to some of the jars before putting the hot jam in and at the bottom they stayed...rooky mistake ;)

I don't particularly like thick stiff jam rather runny but not so much that it's coulis.  I also have to admit, I was in a flap, I wasn't sure if it was right even when I did the freezer plate check, it still seemed too runny, but I just kept thinking "well if it's too runny it will be called coulis!!".

And as for those chia seeds, they thickened the jam up naturally as they swell once wet, that was a lucky fluke!! But again, I left some just plain and the consistency is just right, not too runny but not thick.  I'm doing a happy dance!!

The only thing wrong with this picture is the lack of a batch of scones fresh from the oven........

Ciao, Jan x

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

call me a hooker

I found myself at Lincraft again the other day, 40% off....I had no inspiration for a new project, I have one on the go already, but I caved and brought some of my favourite wool colours - grey and red.  I came home and plopped my bag of goodies next to my recliner (did I really just say that out loud) and felt a feeling wash over me.  Guilt.  Yarn guilt.  I had a pile of  balls, some new and some left overs gushing out of my basket.  After some quick googling, I came up with this delightful pattern for a happy flower blanket.  Truth be known, I'm not big on colour, but my crochet balls of yarn where leading me to it.  I wasn't sure I'd be braking rules not keeping to all the one type of yarn, but that's the thing I love about crochet, as I do with cooking recipes, I'm finding as my confidence grows - I'm fooling around with the 'recipe' as I keep calling the patterns. Beginners errors :)

I started off using a 4.25mm hook but after some trial and more trial, I pulled it out and used my fav 5mm one.  But no, it wasn't right so back to the first.  The yarns are a mixture of mostly 8 ply and some acrylic and some pure wool.  I do love using the 4 seasons pure wool 8 ply 100% australian wool made for Spotlight, but the colours are limited.  I'd be keen to hear of any yarns you love to use as we are limited here where I live with only Spotlight and Lincraft and I'm actually surprised how poor the range and colours are.  I've seen some gorgeous yarns on Attic 24's yarn shop in the UK, but I'm holding off a purchase until she releases her next CAL (crochet a-long for the uninitiated, up until recently I thought it was short for calorie ;))

I've been at these for nearly a week now and I'm getting more confident with the blending and picking of colours.  I'm actually really loving the bright colours.  I did change a couple of parts of the recipe though.  As I didn't want huge squares, I omitted a round - round 4, as the pattern is using 3.5mm hook and cotton.   I also did just straight double crochet (dc in US terms or tr in UK terms) for rounds 3, 4 and 5 of my crochet.

 I'm looking to start joining it soon, but about another few dozen to do before then, there is no rush, this baby is for moi.

I wish you could all see me hooking and watching cooking shows in my recliner.  This equals one happy Jan :D

Ciao, Jan x

Monday, 5 January 2015

In my kitchen January 2015

I'm really happy to say that my blogging mojo has come back from it's hidding place and I'm loving the process and the way it makes me live more mindfully purely by the process.  Last year I felt paralised by judgement, I'm not sure if putting a blog page on facebook was what started the feeling but I've put an end to that and I'm not worrying about keeping up with others blogs and more invested in how it makes me feel.  And that is, happy.  It really gets my creative juices flowing in a way I've never felt, other than my new love affair with crochet.  I guess this is what people have been trying to explain to me for some time about living your passion.  

I did also have a ripper of a year health wise and not in the good sense, you can read about what that is here and that still plagues me daily, but I'd rather not dwell on that here.

I did also struggle with content last year as I felt I had said so much of what I believe and the way we live.  None of that has changed.  I didn't want it to be stale and the same old types of photos, so I've been looking at joining in some other blogs with a kitchen or crochet theme for inspiration.

I've come across this link up with in my kitchen with Celia from fig jam and lime  that I thought would be fun to do each month.  I'm also a closet voyeur so the thought of looking into other peoples kitchens appeals to me!!  
I'll pop the lid on the crochet one soon....

So here is my first attempt at "in my kitchen at the moment"...although a lot of the goodies have been eaten from Christmas that I was given but heres a peep!!! 

In my kitchen at the moment....I am crushing on this coconut oil big time.  I'm having it mixed in yoghurt, on rice cakes with banana and peanut butter (trust me it is my favourite indulgence), cooking with it as it has a high smoking point, adding to steamed greens and I've popped a jar of it by my bedside table to put it on my dry hands and feet before bed.  I also love the jar and it's a reasonable price at just under $12 from my local GoVita health food store.

After all the Christmas over indulgence, my body is craving healthy food.  I'm not gluten intolerant but I just am less bloated if I limit my intake.  I'm into rice cakes with everything from the above mentioned peanut butter, sliced banana and a smidge of coconut oil(there's a picture of this with some home grown sliced strawberries for a breakfast below), to these that were hummus, avocado, grated carrot, slivers of christmas ham, cos lettuce and a squeegy of balsamic glaze.  I'm also having a few miso soups on the side instead to limit my caffeine intake.

On a shelf in my kitchen is a picture of my husband and daughter in Grieve in Chianti, Tuscany many years ago.  It keeps my memories alive.  We had coffee, many gelato, cakes, biscuits, pasta dishes, Chianti wine, salami's, breads and conversations in this town square we called home for a week.  There is also a little bird that I brought for a friend and I to share one each as a symbol of our friendship no matter how far apart.  A stack of inspiration cards sent to me by another dear friend, I change them everyday with a shuffle and see what that day's words will inspire me with.  Today's say "derive strength from those that love and support you".  There is also a vintage bowl and tiles that just make me happy sitting up there too.
In my kitchen are these words that are mounted on the wall....not that I need reminding, surprise surprise!!
In my kitchen is a Christmas foodie gift of red onion marmalade and chutney...I'll save these for a rainy day slow cooked casserole in winter I think.
In my kitchen fridge are a few of my condiments of the moment.  From left to right: The last of my chutney, some chutney from another dear friend - beetroot and raspberry, my absolute must have is lanas garden rhubarb sauce.  It's like a really, really good bbq sauce.  I add it to everything, and lastly this aioli "Blessed and lucky" made with free range eggs.  Oh and can't forget some of hubby's red onions.
In my kitchen there is some crochet paraphernalia, a spin cushion I made for the darning needle I kept losing and my latest project slowly taking shape, an elephant I picked up in Thailand last year and a few sentimental things. 
In my kitchen, sitting up high, are my nan's old scales that I cherish but don't use.  I thought it deserved a sepia photo seeing as they are over 70 years old.  I'd love to know their cooking memories.
And lastly in my kitchen are a jug of freshly picked basil leaves from the bountiful crop outside.  I love the smell of them, but they are also added into lots of my salads at the moment.

So that's it for this month, that was fun...until next time.

Ciao, Jan x

Sunday, 4 January 2015

garden happenings and the last of the December photo a day challenge

Short and sweet ramblings today....Here is the final days of the photo a day for the month of December.  I've noticed it has gone from a month long challenge to a weekly one.  You can check it out here if you are interested.

Day 29:  "I need less of this" I will be trying

Day 30:  "us"

Day 31:  "my best bit of 2014" learning to be a hooker :D

I thought I'd also share some special garden moments that happened over the past few weeks.

There is no picture of the first tomatoes as they were greedily eaten before I even thought of getting a photo of them.  Gosh, I wish you could taste them.  They were picked on a hot summers day, still warm from the sun and even though it had a hint of orange, not the perfect red hue, it was sensational-juicy and sweet as a lolly.

First of the zucchinis and the last of the parsnips - these were made into sea salt and chilli chips as a little appetizer before dinner one night
my first apricot....I've been lovingly nurturing these along, covering from the birds but the winds we experience over the Christmas period I couldn't control.  Nevermind...walking out and picking my breakfast never tasted so good
 a new lot of beetroot, cos lettuce, and leeks coming on
I spy with my little eye....
the next lot of spinach coming up
Cavolo nero my fav leafy green...I've been lightly boiling it with other leaves (beetroot leaves, spinach, kolrabi), drain, get as much water out as you can and mix with a good tablespoon of coconut oil, salt and pepper - delicious and something I'm never tired of
I can't wait to go out and pick tonights dinner, what ever that may be :D

Ciao, Jan x
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