After five months living in this house I decided it was time I bought my daughter a bookcase. The poor kid still had a packing box in her room because she didn't have anywhere to put her books.
On visiting our local furniture store I was amazed to find that unstained bookcases were $75 less than the stained ones. Knowing that there were several pots of paint in the back of the garage left by the previous owners, the decision to paint ourselves was a pretty easy one.
Good girl that she is, my daughter painted the bookcase herself as a weekend project. The first coat of paint went on yesterday and the second today. I l.o.v.e. having kids who are old enough to do these sorts of things for themselves!
Once the paint dried, the fun part began - decorating! I wasn't allowed to help. The door was shut and Miss 13 set to work. (I did peek in through the window to see what she was up to.)
Do you like the results?
Our next project will be the bedside table below. We found it by the side of the road during a hard rubbish collection and have been planning to fix it up for ages. We're going to paint it and add new knobs.
As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not only because my bees love it but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship, whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language.
Sir Thomas More (1478-1535)
It took me quite a long time to get the above photo of a bee on one of our rosemary bushes. The bees refused to pose and either flew away before I could photograph them or else gave me shots of their rear ends as they dived into the flowers!
In Australia, rosemary grows beautifully as a perennial. It is well suited to our hot, dry climate.
Today a picked a few sprigs and use them to make a rosemary, lemon and garlic marinade for some chicken thighs, which I later cooked in the wok with red capsicum strips and sliced onions.
I made lemon butter because I was given a bag of lemons yesterday (thank you Cathy) and lemon butter - or lemon curd - is one of my favourite foods in the whole world. It's sunshine in a jar. I quadrupled Molly's recipe and made four jars, but I bet they don't last long.
Do you ever feel that winter is never going to end? We have felt like this and our winters are really very mild. Just cold and rainy. We get almost all the year's rain in a three month period from June to August.
After a wet and windy winter, however, Sunday felt like spring. It was warm and sunny and breezy. We were even able to dry the washing outdoors.
I finally got around to finishing pruning the roses (we have 16 in our front yard alone) and my husband took the younger boys for a bike ride along the river into town. They usually buy an ice cream once they get there but sadly the kiosk was shut so they rode all the way back again.
Today was cold and wet and wintry again but we have the memory of beautiful, sunny yesterday to remind us that spring is almost here.
I found out for the first time today that the type of lettuce we call cos is what Americans call romaine. I have wondered what romaine was every time I read about it in a recipe!
I like cos lettuce because it has a stronger flavour than iceberg and grows better in dry conditions than many other varieties of lettuce. It is the variety traditional used in Caesar salad.
Rather than buy seedlings, this year I sowed cos lettuce seeds and they have germinated well in quite cold conditions. Sometimes I pick a whole plant if the seedlings are growing too crowded but mostly I pick the leaves rather than the whole plants. The young leaves are lovely mixed with rocket (arugula) in a simple green salad.
In the past (in Melbourne) I found cos to cope better with frost than other lettuces - but we don't suffer from severe frosts so I can't guarantee this for all situations.
I think salad is going to be on the menu at our red house quite a lot over the next few weeks!
When friends are at your hearthside met,
Sweet courtesy has done its most
If you have made each guest forget
That he himself is not the host.
I am trying to work on being more hospitable. I enjoy having guests in my home but have done very little about it lately, apart from having some of the kids' friends over.
While we were renting I didn't often have people over because it was not my own home. Now that we have bought a house I keep thinking we should wait until we have a sofa for the sitting room, or a barbecue, or an outside table.
Sometimes hospitality just feels like too much hard work, especially after a long week at work. Yet I also think that if I am blessed with a roof over my head and food on my table then I should be willing to share - and generously. Guests rarely care if the house is messy or there's not enough furniture.
Certainly, I am better at inviting friends to my home than strangers. Yet not so long ago I was a stranger in this city and others welcomed me into their homes. How short is my memory!
How do you practice hospitality in your home?
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
The best thing to do with lavender is enjoy its presence in your garden and its scent as you brush past..
If you must cut it back, you could make lavender sachets to scent your drawers and deter moths, or if you're lazy like me you could make lavender socks. Lavender is also an important component of homemade potpourri.
If you are sure your lavender has not been sprayed you could make lavender tea.
If you are a bath-lover, you could make old-fashioned aromatic bath oil for your bath.
Wandering around my garden the other day I noticed that the new, late winter buds on my rose bushes are covered in aphids. It's time to do something about them before they get any worse.
Like most gardeners I detest aphids. These squishy, sap-sucking little bugs attack plants such as roses, hibiscus, peach and cherry trees and are known to spread plant diseases. They breed in enormous numbers as soon as the weather begins to warm up.
There are a number of different ways to get rid of aphids:
Let natural predators such as ladybirds, hoverflies, lace wings and small birds, do the work for you
Use commercial remedies such as Neem oil or Pyrethrum spray
Many of us love a good cup of coffee, but what to do with the used coffee grounds? Here are some suggestions:
Use as a mulch around acid-loving plants: Acid-loving plants include azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons, blue hydrangeas and blueberries. I have been collecting coffee grinds from our work coffee machine to use around my blueberries, as Adelaide soil tends to be alkaline.
Compost them or use in a worm farm: fairly obvious but true
Bug repellant: Scatter coffee grounds around near ant nests or around plants easily damaged by snails and slugs to deter the creepy-crawlies.
Natural Dye: As most of us know, coffee stains when spilt, so use coffee grounds steeped in boiling water as a brown dye for Easter eggs and even clothing. (First soak the fabric in coffee, air dry it, then wash in cold water to set the dye.)
Fridge deodoriser: Coffee grounds in a clean, old sock tied at the top can be used to deodorise the fridge, but make sure the grounds are dry or they'll go mouldy.
For more tips for things to do with coffee grinds, visit here and here.
Most winter Saturdays after a chilly morning at soccer, my husband and youngest son sneak off to a local cafe. They order a coffee for Dad and a hot chocolate for the boy (and sometimes an extra little treat).
Today my daughter and I joined them. A little relaxation before I went off to face the supermarket and Saturday chores.