Monday, 30 June 2008

Disconnected

Little Girl Talking on Vintage Phone
Thank you to everyone who has left a comment about our anticipated move to Adelaide. I greatly appreciate all your kind thoughts.

This post is to let you all know that I am about to be without broadband for a couple of days because we are closing our home business phone lines.

I should be back on Wednesday or Thursday, depending on when we get reconnected on our home line (we have ADSL).

We're not moving house this week, just swapping phone lines around.

Have a lovely week and I'll be back soon.

Kate xxx

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Insomnia

Scream by Edvard Munch
Anyone who has any tips for managing insomnia, both of the 'I can't get to sleep', and the 'brain too active at 4 am' varieties, please let me know.

Yes, I am blogging at 4.30 am. Yes, I know that being on the computer will not help me to go back to sleep

My brain is over active with details to organise and lists to make, people to see and things that need doing on the house before we can sell it and move. In a month.

I think I'll go back to bed now, and try to sleep again.

Kate xxx

Thursday, 26 June 2008

The Big Announcement

Woman on Telephone Looking Surprised by Ewing Galloway
No, I am not pregnant. Sorry, Jen.

Lisa, you were partly right.

WE ARE MOVING!

My husband has just been offered a job at a university in South Australia. So we will be moving in about a month. To Adelaide.

Good bye my darling red house. Sob.

The past six months have been extremely stressful due to job insecurity, and this move should solve that, which will be a blessing.

On the other hand:

  1. I have only ever visited Adelaide once, many years ago, for a wedding, so know very little about it (although Google is helping me)

  2. I don't have any friends in Adelaide

  3. Having grown up in Sydney I have spent years developing friendships and other networks in Melbourne and now I shall have to start again. Sob. Again.

We are going to spent the next month getting our house ready to sell, then we're off. We're not going to live in the house while it is on the market, thank goodness!

We are planning to rent initially, while our house is on the market, then buy after we become familiar with the Adelaide property market and, more importantly, find a house that we really want to live in.

(I hope nobody is disappointed that there is no baby announcement.)
Kate xxx
P.S. Here is Adelaide on Google Maps for those not familiar with Australian geography. You can scan in and out if you like.



View Larger Map

PSS I have had very little time of late to visit others' blogs, much as I love to. Please understand and I will visit you all when time allows. xxx

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

A Big Announcement

Baby With Megaphone Making Announcement by Frank Siteman

There is lots happening at our red house.

Tomorrow I am going to make a big announcement.

Stay posted!

Kate xxx


Monday, 23 June 2008

Budget Bathroom Makeover with Window (Mis)Treatment

I have finally finished my mini en suite bathroom makeover. At least, it was finished a week ago but the weather has been so dark and grey that it has been difficult to take photos.

The makeover comprised:
  • removing a rusty old radiator and ugly fluorescent light
  • installing an IXL-tastic; one of those combined light, heater fan thingies
  • replacing an existing, broken exhaust fan with a new one (just so as not to have a huge hole to re-plaster). While two exhaust fans sounds excessive, this bathroom needs them, believe me!
  • scraping flaking paint and mould-treating the walls and ceilings (nearly gassing myself in the process)
  • filling in and sanding holes etc
  • painting ceiling, walls and woodwork
  • making a window treatment (or mistreatment, to quote The Nester. You can see some of her work here and here).

Although you can't see it in the photo above, my window treatment is held together with pins and hot glue. I tried nailing it to the window, but when that didn't work -- I was standing on the toilet and hammering at a very strange angle -- I stuck it to the window using hot glue.


I wanted to inject more colour into the room, believe me, but found the peachy-coloured tiles difficult to manage. Any peachy or apricot-y shades of paint made them look either ghastly orange or too pink. And unfortunately, replacing the tiles (which are also in the shower, whilst slightly pinker tiles are on the floor) was out of the question.

The colour I eventually used was Dulux Antique White USA -- neutral but nice.


I haven't put up any pictures yet, nor have I bought any new accessories as this really is a genuine budget makeover. The largest cost was getting in an electrician, but we did everything else ourselves.



My new ceiling unit. Lovely!

Kate xxx

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Winter Solstice, June 21

A full moon shines on winters leafless branches by George F. Mobley



If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

Anne Bradstreet


About Anne Bradstreet, from
http://www.annebradstreet.com/:

Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) is one of the most important figures in the history of American Literature. She is considered by many to be the first American poet, and while her first collection of poems, "The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, By a Gentlewoman of Those Parts", doesn't contain any of her best known poems, it was the first book written by a woman to be published in the United States. Mrs. Bradstreet's work also serves as a document of the struggles of a Puritan wife against the hardships of New England colonial life, and in some way is a testament to plight of the women of the age. Anne's life was a constant struggle, from her difficult adaptation to the rigors of the new land, to her constant battle with illness.

It is clear to see that Anne's faith was exemplary, and so was her love for her children and her husband, Governor Simon Bradstreet. Anne's poems were written mainly during the long periods of loneliness while Simon was away on political errands. Anne, who was a well educated woman, also spent much time with her children, reading to them and teaching them as her father had taught her when she was young. While it is rather easy for us to view Puritan ideology in a bad light because of it's attitude towards women and strict moral code, her indifference to material wealth, her humility and her spirituality, regardless of religion, made her into a positive, inspirational role model for any of us.

Another one of Anne's most important qualities was her strong intuition, although only subtly hinted at in her work, probably for fear of reprisal from the deeply religious Puritan community, one cannot help but feel her constant fascination with the human mind, and spirit, and inner guidance.

Her style is deceptively simple, yet speaks of a woman of high intelligence and ideals who was very much in love, and had unconditional faith. While it was difficult for women to air their views in the 17th Century, Anne Bradstreet did so with ease, as her rich vocabulary and polyvalent knowledge brought a lyrical, yet logical quality to her work which makes it pleasant for anyone to read.
Kate xxx

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Who Are They Fighting?

At our red house my 5 year old son has prepared an army for battle.

The soldiers are in formation and ready.

The army is backed by a castle with its weapons charged.

The enemy?


The back of our living room couch, apparently?!

Do you ever wonder what toys get up to when the lights go out at night?

Does another army miraculously appear to fight the red house pirates and soldiers? I guess I will never know.

(I have been working very hard painting over the past two weeks and will have some photos to share soon. Promise.)
Kate xxx

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival


Welcome to this week's Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival! There are lots of ideas for things to cook, things to make and things to do. I hope you enjoy reading these contributions.

Cooking From Scratch

As usual, we have a range of delicious recipes to choose from. Yum!

Mrs. Mordecai presents Be It Ever So Humble: Pizza rolls posted at Be It Ever So Humble.

Felicity presents Watermelon Cordial posted at My World; My Voice.


Aimee presents Momzoo...: Biscuits posted at Momzoo....

Vera & Serge presents Homemade Salad Dressings posted at Vegetarian Frugal Housewife.

Rinelle presents Tir Tairngire: Recipes posted at Tir Tairngire.




Joanna presents Broccoli Chicken Casserole posted at One Krusty Mama.





Crafty Ideas


How I wish I were more creative! Here is some inspiration to get us all making and creating.






Around the Home


Some of these ideas are about doing things from scratch, others are about living our lives in a simpler, more 'from scratch' way.

Heather Johnson presents 5 Ways to Have a Frugal Summer Vacation posted at Smart Money Daily.


Stephanie presents Patio Furniture Touch Up posted at Stop the Ride!.



If you would like to join in next week's carnival, click on the box below to find out how.



Kate xxx


Monday, 16 June 2008

Bushwalk at Mount Dom Dom

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.

~e.e. cummings

Yesterday my daughter and husband went on a 10 km bushwalk at Mt Dom Dom east of Melbourne with Miss 11's scout group. So today's post is some of the photos taken by my daughter during the hike.

I know some readers are disappointed that I don't show more of the Australian bush on my blog. One reader expressed disappointment recently that my backyard looks just like an American backyard!

However, just outside of Melbourne there are lots of beautiful places to visit that have wonderful bushland. If you go to the out and about category on my sidebar you can see some of the places we have visited over the past year, both in the city and beyond.

My husband left yesterday morning tired and rather stressed and came home relaxed and invigorated. There is nothing like the beauty of the natural world to put all our worries back into perspective.








Kate xxx

Friday, 13 June 2008

A Very Pleasant Surprise

Over the past couple of days I have moved on from painting the ensuite bathroom to painting our upstairs and downstairs halls. These are a lot of work, and every muscle in my body aches by the end of the day. I am clearly very out of shape.

Late yesterday afternoon, feeling tired and sore, I opened my front door to see a large white package sitting on my front doormat. Even better, it was addressed to me. What could it be?

I had an inkling when I saw the name on the back; it was my prize from Tracy at Beyond My Picket Fence. A few weeks ago Tracy held a prize draw on her blog for some of her exquisite stitcheries and I was one of the two winners. My very first blog prize!

Anyhow, I opened the package, thinking it was a little bulky to hold only a stitchery, and out popped a bag of coffee beans,

and a pink-wrapped gift.


There was also a sweet little note, which reads:

Dear Kate,

I hope this little stitchery reminds you that a bunch of flowers is akin to a bunch of beautiful friends!

I remembered you talking about coffee -- I hope this blend gives your tastebuds a worthwhile party!

Tracy

What a beautiful and touching note. Thank you so much, Tracy. I have not seen that brand of coffee before and I am keen to try it. I do love my coffee!


The stitchery, which Tracy even framed before sending, is now sitting on my dressing table, and it makes me smile every time I walk past. Tracy's needlework is exceptional; I have never seen such tiny French knots.


So thank you again, Tracy, for your generous, thoughtful, delicious and pretty gifts. I am honoured to have you for a blog-friend.

Kate xxx

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Make it From Scratch Carnival

Next Tuesday Our Red House will be hosting the Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival (MIFS).

If you would like to submit a post from your blog on anything made from scratch, whether a recipe or arts and crafts, you can submit your post here. Any post will do, not just recent ones, so you can pick one of your favourites. Submissions for the next MIFS Carnival need to arrive before next Monday, June 16. Only one contribution per person, please.

This week's MIFS carnival is at Life at Both Sides of the Pond. Go and have a look, and even better, join in next time! Carnivals are a great way to promote your blog to a wider readership.

Kate xxx

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

For Aussie Readers: A Free Book Offer

Aussie readers, Simon & Schuster are having a promotion where, if you join their mailing list, they will send you a free book in a subject area of your choice. Truly.

I signed up last week and this book arrived today. It looks good too, although I hadn't previously heard of it. Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres. I am trying not to buy books this year due to a tight budget and the house needing so much work, so this arrival is a real blessing.

You can sign up for the Simon & Schuster mailing list and your free book here.

I read about the Simon & Schuster promotion on The Freebies Blog. I discovered The Freebies Blog a few weeks ago when I was googling for Australian supermarket coupons (apparently non-existent), and it really does offer some good stuff. There are lots of samples of beauty products, free downloads, low energy lightbulbs and other goodies.

Please note, I am not being paid to promote these sites. I found them by myself and thought they might be of interest to some of you.
Kate xxx

Lemon Syrup Cake: A Step by Step Recipe

Over the winter months, when there are lemons on our backyard tree, I often make this delicious, sticky cake.


It is quick and easy to whip up in a food processor, but if you don't own one, chop the lemon zest finely, cream butter, sugar and zest, then mix in eggs and fold in the dry ingredients.


I like to make this cake in a Bundt tin, but any shape tin is fine.




Lemon Syrup Cake


zest (finely grated rind) of one large lemon
200g (6 1/2 oz) sugar
250g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
250 g (8 oz) butter, softened
4 eggs


Syrup


150 g (5 oz) sugar
juice of one large lemon



Method
Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C. Grease a cake tin well.
Blend lemon zest and sugar in a food processor, then add remaining cake ingredients and mix well.
Pour into tin and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer pushed into the cake comes out clean.



To make the syrup, mix the lemon juice with the extra sugar in a small saucepan and heat until sugar has dissolved. Turn out the cake and slowly pour the syrup over until it soaks in.


This cake is delicious served warm with whipped cream, or just on its own. Sometimes I serve the cake as a dessert with its centre filled with freshly whipped cream. Mmmm...





Lemon Syrup Cake


Ensuite update



I have finished painting the ensuite bathroom apart from a couple of spots where we are having trouble getting putty to dry due to the cold weather. Another thing we need to do is repair the broken soap dish in the shower. It is one of the ones that is part of the tile and it looks really ugly.



Tomorrow I am hoping to make a trip to Spotlight to choose some fabric for the window treatment I am planning to make.



Hopefully everything will be done by next weekend and I'll be able to post pictures. These things always seem to take longer than expected!

Fairy Cakes

Garden Fairies
Garden Fairies





Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Female on Gerber Daisies, Sammamish, Washington, USA by Darrell Gulin
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Female on Gerber Daisies

Sunday, 8 June 2008

A Spot of Paint

Autumn Flowers and Apples by Timothy Easton


It was delightful to make Silver Bush as clean and sweet as the spring . . . a new curtain here . . . a new wall-paper there . . . a spot of paint where it would do most good. Little changes that didn't hurt . . . much.

L. M. Montgomery, Mistress Pat

I am afraid there is little time for blogging or blog-visiting this weekend as I am busy painting our ensuite bathroom. The ensuite is the first room at our red house that I am inflicting with a budget makeover. You can read about my plans in this post.

I used the word 'inflicting' because this is the first time I have ever painted a room, and I am finding it a slow process. Fortunately, I have already discovered some shortcuts that I will use the next time I paint. And while I am a slow worker, I am quite enjoying myself; I often find there is a gentle, meditative quality to slow, meticulous work.

Moreover, my sweet husband, pleased that I am not inflicting the painting on him, has been taking the younger kids for long walks and bike rides to keep them out of my way. He also cooked dinner last night and made me lunch today. So this is really quite a pleasant change of routine for me.

I'll be posting pictures sometime in the next week but in the meantime I'd better get back to work.

Kate xxx

Friday, 6 June 2008

Chess Lessons

Game of Chess, 1555 by Sofonisba Anguisciola
Game of Chess, 1555


That's what Chess is all about. One day you give your opponent a lesson, the next day he gives you one. Bobby Fischer

Over the past few evenings I have been taking chess lessons from my 9 year old son.

This little lad is quite introverted and is often hesitant about trying new activities. When I suggested he join the chess club at school next term, he said that he isn't a very good player, to which I replied that I bet he could beat me -- and he did.

While in the past I have been taught the various moves of chess, I don't think I had ever played a full game. And what a game it is! It is difficult enough for me to try and remember what each piece does, and to focus on moving one piece around, without worrying about all the others.

I am also not very good at sacrificing pieces willingly for the greater good of my 'army'; I have a tendency to hold on till the bitter end. I can understand why chess was used to teach military strategy to statesmen in past centuries.

Anyhow, now the chess set is out, a game seems to be underway almost constantly. The whole family is joining in, and several 'experts' groan every time someone makes a faulty move.

Finally, tonight I won my first game. I ventured more, attacked more, and watched my pieces better. I think I could really start to enjoy this!

Kate xxx

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

China Cabinet

Do you have a china cabinet at your house? And if you do, what do you put in it? China? Knick-knacks? A precious collection?

We have two china cabinets at our red house, both of which have been passed on to us from other family members. They both have a mirror back, which I like as it makes them look larger. The one I am showing today is in our living room. We use it to display our silverware and crystal, all of which has also been passed on to us by other family members.

Even on a gloomy, grey day like today, this cabinet looks light and shiny because of the mirrors and the shiny things inside.


On the radio recently I heard an antique dealer say that old silver has very little resale value currently because nobody wishes to clean it or take care of it.


Yet I look at these pieces, many of which belonged to my husband's grandparents, and think about how treasured they must have been to come to us in such good condition. I imagine his grandmother having tea parties with her best china and the silver teapot.



And when I have guests, I too have great pleasure in bringing out these pretty things and using them once more.



Kate xxx.





Monday, 2 June 2008

A Golden Day and a Lemon Curd Recipe



Although it is now winter at our red house, today is the kind of golden, sunny day that would lift even the most troubled spirits. Perhaps it is the lower light or longer shadows, but the yellows in my garden seem deeper and stronger and less washed out than they do in summer.

Here are some of the golds and yellows I observed today.

Dandelion flower: meticulously made despite being a weed in a crack in the paving.


Silver birch. These are in our neighbours' garden but hang over the fence into ours.


Gold against blue. Such clear blue skies are all the more glorious in winter because they are rarer than in summer.


Many of the lemons on our lemon tree are now ripe, so yesterday I made a sextuple (if that's a word -- 6 times, anyway) batch of lemon butter, or lemon curd.




The recipe I used is new to me, taken from Molly's blog Cross Roads (with her permission). The difference between this and other lemon curd recipes I have tried is that it claims to be able to be kept unrefrigerated for 12 months (I would still probably keep it in the fridge). It is also the only lemon curd recipe I have tried that needs to be boiled; most recipes say to avoid boiling at all costs!




Molly's Lemon Curd Spread


Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup of sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp butter

Boil together for 5 mins.Use to fill those tarts or topping on a pie.

If making a quantity to keep, double or triple the recipe (depending on lemons available) and change the 1 tsp butter to one TBSP butter for each lemon used. These jars will store for 12 months unopened.


Kate's Tips: I whisked the mixture continuously while the butter was melting and the mixture was coming to the boil. You don't want eggy lumps in your lemon curd! Once the mixture was boiling I stirred it to avoid sticking.

Don't forget to sterilise your jars and lids. Pour the lemon curd into the jars while it is still hot, screw on the lids tightly, then tip the jars upside down for ten minutes. This will sterilise the inside of the lids more effectively than can otherwise be achieved and help prevent mould in the lemon curd.

I use lemon butter on scones, as a cake filling, in tarts as Molly suggests, on pancakes and on toast. It is s-o-o-o delicious.


More yellow. Isn't it lovely?


Kate xxx