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Archive for the ‘Frugal Living’ Category

“Why do you do it?”, my friend Ellen asked me.

She’d popped in to pick up a couple of loaves (one for her and one for our neighbour Lou across the road) when the doorbell rang and Will arrived to pick up the third loaf of the four I’d just baked.

I thought for a minute, then I explained.

Four one-kilo loaves of freshly baked, slow proved sourdough bread cost me $2.36 in flour (59c each). It used to be less, but I’ve recently upgraded the bakers’ flour I’m using. I’d had to bake anyway as we’d run out of bread, but we rarely eat more than a loaf a day and it always feels wasteful to run our big oven just to bake a single.

Mixing up four kilos of sourdough by hand isn’t much harder than making a one-kilo batch. Our high hydration overnight technique (my current go-to formula) involves just minutes of hands-on time, so the only tricky bit is finding a container large enough to hold the dough as it proves on the bench…

And then…I get to have cups of tea with the neighbours when they pop over to pick up loaves. They send me photos of their kids scoffing Vegemite toast and the lunches they take to work the following day, often with suggestions and feedback. It helps to fortify the powerful bonds we already share as a community. Best of all, every bake saves four families a trip to the shops to buy an $8 artisan sourdough loaf.

If I’m honest though, my neighbours are doing me a favour, because they give me an excuse to bake in bulk. Over the past ten years, sourdough baking has become a huge passion – I adore the feel of the spongy dough, and messing about with different shapes and slashes, and the oooh moment when I lift the roaster lids to see how much the loaves have risen. It may be one of the oldest and most prosaic forms of cooking, but it has never lost its magic on me – every single loaf feels like a gift and even after all this time, I still find myself marveling at the alchemy of it. It saves us heaps of money (even with all the loaves that go out the door) and it keeps everyone I love fed. That’s a pretty addictive combination!

Duck fat and smoked paprika twists for our neighbour Mark, who very kindly mows our front lawn!

If you’ve never baked bread before, I’d encourage you to give it a go. Our basic yeasted tutorial or, if you have access to some starter, the basic sourdough tutorial and the overnight sourdough tutorial, are all good places to start. And if you’re already an enthusiastic baker, I’d love to know who you share your loaves (or other baked goods) with! ♥

Sorry folks, I don’t have any more dried Priscilla starter at the moment. I’ll let you know when I have more to share!

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Sock It To Me!*

*with thanks to Maree at Around the Mulberry Tree for the title suggestion.

A final update on the stripey socks!

In case you’ve just joined in, here’s the background story on the socks we’ve been collecting from our podiatrist Richard. Happily, the scanning technology has now improved, which means the socks will no longer be needed (or subsequently discarded).

Of the last batch we picked up, forty cleaned and tumble-dried pairs were delivered to the folks at the Mustard Seed Op Shop in Ultimo for distribution to the homeless…

I’ve discovered that the cotton-rich heel-free tubes make perfect heat packs, filled with 500g of whole wheat and stitched across the top. They cost me just 80c each and take five minutes to put together…

Serendipitously, my neighbour popped over that afternoon with a migraine and neck pain. She’d baulked at the $40 wheat packs from the chemist, so I popped one of mine into the microwave, then draped it over her shoulders…

I split the side seam on one sock and turned it into a useful bag

Stripey sock juggling balls only require two seams and if I cut carefully, I can get all three balls from a single sock…

I filled another sock with flossy salt to form a soothing eye pad. I chilled it in the fridge for an hour or so, then my young friend Grace tested it out for me…

It takes four socks to make a beanie, but then again, I do have a large head…

I’d managed to wear a few socks out at the toes, so I turned them into fingerless gloves for my morning walks. I emailed Richard to tell him that I’d been out in my matching hat, socks and fingerless gloves, and he deadpanned… “You have issues I’m not qualified to work with”…

A couple of photos to finish…Richard the Sock Monkey…

…and Karen the Sock Owl…

It’s been great fun – thanks for coming on this socky journey with me! ♥

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I know, I know…making juggling balls isn’t your usual Easter craft project, but I’ve had so much fun that I thought I’d share them with you anyway.

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Start with three pieces of scrap fabric, each 10cm wide by 18cm long. Woven or jersey cottons work well.

Fold one piece of fabric in half, right sides together, and stitch along both sides to form a small bag…

Turn it right side out and poke out the corners…

Fill with 75g of rice, lentils or small beans…

Bring the seam lines together at the top to close…

Fold under a small seam allowance and pin…

Now either handstitch the opening closed with a small slip stitch OR carefully machine it closed, making sure not to run over any of the filling (a narrow machine foot helps here, as does making the bag from stretch fabric)…

Make a big bowl of these little pyramid sacks and leave them on the table for folks to play with. Small people love them and they’re relatively painless on impact (I’ve been throwing them at the boys to check).

There’s a lot of research to suggest that learning to juggle is good for your brain – I’m a bit rusty at the moment, but I’ve been practising hard!

Here’s my earlier post on juggling, and my video from 2014…

Have a fun Easter break!

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Daily Walks

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As you might recall, I started walking in the second half of last year.

My goal is to get at least 8,000 steps a day – as I mentioned in an earlier post, the recommended number is 10,000, but I’ve given myself 1,000 steps off for every five years over forty.

I’m happy to report that since the 14th August, I haven’t missed a single day! There were a few occasions when my count was a bit short, but overall I’m very happy with the results. To date, I’ve walked 905km and taken over 1.5 million steps. I track them using the Stepz app on my iPhone…

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Happily, Big Boy still comes with me most weekday mornings, but I’ve also discovered that I love walking on my own. We’ve now expanded our route from the Inner West Greenway to include the eastern side of the Iron Cove Bay Run. The latter is much more crowded, but the water views are stunning. Let me share a few photos with you…

These colourful dinghies are all locked in place and numbered…

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There is a lovely shady area called Giovanazzo Grove, where I found ten minutes to sit and meditate recently…

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When I opened my eyes, the rowers were gliding through the water…

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One cloudy morning, we discovered a secret beach…

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…and watched a white-faced heron being buffeted by the wind…

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Trying to beat the heat on a 40°C day, Big Boy and I headed out before dawn and were rewarded with this beautiful sunrise…

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Sometimes, we just sit on the headland and reflect on how incredibly fortunate we are to have all this beauty, for free, so close to home…

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The Bicycle Tree artwork sits near Blackmore Oval…

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As we walked past it, I noticed this rainbow lorikeet who was so busy feeding that he completely ignored my camera…

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The birds on the Greenway and Bay Run have been a joy to watch. This month, the cormorants have taken up residence, and we’ve seen Little Black, Pied and Little Pied  (photo below) species…

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Warwick the pelican attracted a lot of attention when he paddled along the canal recently. I love his reflection in the still waters…

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Finally, I couldn’t resist a photo of this perfectly formed web, glistening in the morning sun…

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Wishing you all happy days! ♥

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Cheese

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A foodie tip: buy soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert or Fromage D’Affinois whenever they’re on special (the riper the better), wrap them carefully, and stash in the freezer.

They will defrost overnight in the fridge to perfect, non-soggy ooziness for your next dinner party cheese platter. They’re also brilliant on pizzas – D’Affinois makes a particularly decadent topping.

I bought this 1kg wheel of Mon Père from Costco for just $20, cut it into eight wedges and (very carefully) vacuum sealed each piece to prevent freezer burn. I’ve also had great success with just wrapping the cheese tightly in cling film.

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Here it is after having been frozen for a week, then defrosted overnight in the fridge…

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While I was at Costco, I also spotted pots of Jean Perrin Fromage des Clarines on special for $4.97. These are normally $20 each (and often more for the ones in ceramic bowls) but a friend told me that the importer had brought in too many for Christmas. With an expiry date of 13th January, they were massively marked down for a quick sale…

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Knowing that I could freeze them, I bought four tubs! I stashed three in the freezer and baked one, following Tania’s recipe here

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It was ridiculously moreish…

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And while we’re on the topic…a cheese plate is an integral part of our dinner parties.  If you need help assembling one, have a look at Sally’s comprehensive guide on putting one together.

Without fail though, I’m always left with a box of cheesy bits and pieces the following day. I turned leftovers into a cheese pâté recently and it was such a hit that I thought I’d best document it here so that I can find the recipe again next time. It’s basically a riff on the Fromage Fort recipe I posted years ago…

  • 300g assorted leftover cheeses – I had a wedge of Cranberry Wensleydale, some 18-month Comte and a small piece of White Pearl Brie (which incidentally had been in the freezer for months, but had defrosted perfectly). It’s worth tasting the cheeses together first to make sure they don’t clash too much.
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • glug of good white wine
  • splash of Kirsch
  • black pepper
  • walnuts, coarsely chopped

Set up the food processor with the grater blade and grate the hard cheeses into the bowl. Now switch to the chopping blade and add the soft cheeses, peeled and smashed garlic, pepper, wine and Kirsch. Blitz to form a smooth(ish) paste.

Scrape into a bowl and smooth out the top. Cover the surface with chopped walnuts, pressing in gently to stick them on (not shown in photo below, because I got the idea after it was taken).

Serve with crackers or sourdough focaccia.

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As I mentioned above, the nuts were a last minute addition, but they made a huge difference to both taste and appearance, and are well worth the extra effort. The addition of the booze seems to help preserve the cheese. I’ve made versions of this with everything from blue to soft, but it might not work with fresh cheeses such as ricotta or mozzarella (because they go off quite quickly).

The pâté should improve with a couple of days’ rest, but I took this to dinner at Kevin and Carol’s place and it was demolished before the night was out!

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