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The pantry

There's been sick peeps around these parts.  Up all hours, lots of washing, squeezing juices and making soup.  But I'm not getting sick. Not me. Too busy thanks.

Around all the nursing, we're fiddling around with the kitchen trying to prepare for the big arrival. For a long time now we've been on a mission.  One to find the perfect pantry cupboard.  We've hunted and scoured for such a long time.  We like those old pine dressers, you know, the farmhouse type ones.  But they just don't hold enough stuff.   Book shelves, stainless steel racks, we've thought about of all types of storage solutions but we were prepared to wait until we found just the right piece.

However, as we ripped out the last of our existing built-in cupboards to make way for the hearth, things started to get desperate.  Nothing like having your pantry stacked in boxes on the floor to take the joy out of cooking.  Perhaps we were going to have to get something custom made. Like, right now.

When suddenly, there it was.  A giant blue vision at the local second hand store.  It was massive, it was loaded with shelves.  And it was perfect.
I love that it came from an old girl guides hall.  It has £ 8-0-0 written in yellow handwriting on the side and is 235 centimetres tall.  And now it lives with us.

Of course, there isn't quite enough room to fit all of our things. But really, can you ever have a big enough pantry?   I'm just so happy we found it, that it just fits under our ceiling, and that it's painted the most lovely shade of blue. And that it has found a home here with us.

Baker boys

I took a huge swag of baking books home from the library last week, looking for some buttery, floury, sweet inspiration.   Have you met Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito?  Forging new frontiers from their bakery in Brooklyn, they are the cutest sweet tooths in New York.  I've been having fun with whoopie pies and butterscotch tarts and most importantly, their famous brownie.  So moist, dense, chocolaty and totally delicious, and, had I remembered to include the recipe's vanilla and espresso powder, I reckon they'd be even better.

Across the Atlantic, you might know Yotam and Sami from London's Ottolenghi.  Their first eponymously titled cookbook is full of modern, smart recipes.  I've been baking their famous giant meringues with cinnamon and hazelnuts, my favourite among a host of other baking goodness.

A little closer to home, the hefty book of Paul Allam and David McGuinness from the landmark Bourke Street Bakery in Sydney's Surry Hills is beautifully photographed and full of recipes for the most perfect breads and pastries.   From the easy pizza dough, to the mixed berry muffins, so far, everything has worked a treat. It brings back memories of queueing for tasty sausage rolls and crusty sourdough loaves when we lived in Sydney.  A bit more practice is required, but I fully intend to nail the amazing sweet shortcrust pastry of theirs.

So many cookbooks, so many tasty things to bake, so little time.  I will be sad when I have to take this lot back to the library, and I hope the librarian doesn't notice the floury, buttery, sticky pages.

Hugo and me

I've been writing this blog for nearly four years now, and I love looking back through old posts and reminiscing about the days when I had the peeps at home full time.   How quickly things change.  Hugo is at school three days a week, Elsa five.  When they come home they run to the neighbour's and play on the street, with nary a glance back at their mama.

This year, as things get busier for me I have to remind myself to cherish those two days at home with Hugo and to be more mindful of his needs. I find I get swept up in lists and chores or doing work stuff.  Hugo gets bored, gets whiney and then I get grumpy.

To get the balance right, I've decided that one day a week is just for Hugo.  A Hugo and me day.  We might go to a cafe ( my favourite ahem, not his) the park, the bike track, a hike.  Anything really, so long as it's us time.
 At first I thought this would be hard. To drop everything and just go, but it's not.  It's easy and lots of fun.  Today was so warm and sunny we grabbed some lunch from the Yo Yo Bakery in Cygnet and hit the beach.  There was icy water to paddle in, fallen trees to climb, rocks and shells to collect and like most Tasmanian beaches, not a soul around.  It was perfect.
How silly am I that I need constant (daily!) reminding to be present with my children.  How sad I will be when they're all grown up and flown the coop.   The lists and chores and work stuff will still be there, but they won't.

Right now

Goodness, what happened to August?  In fact, what happened to winter full stop? These past weeks have flown by and the unseasonal warm weather coupled with longer days has drawn us outside and probably into a false sense of security.   Spring!? Already?!  Woo hoo! But after several years in Tasmania, I know that it will get cold again.  There may even be more frosts lurking around the corner. I hope so anyway. I don't mind those beautiful frosty mornings.

Micro blogging has also distracted me from this space, Instagram and Pinterest are my new online loves.  So quick and easy.  A snap with my phone, select a gorgeous filter and we're done.  Instant.

But I do miss writing here and using my big camera.  Since my last post I celebrated a birthday with lovely friends around a bonfire.  Had a new window cut into a dark corner of the kitchen.  Helped my neighbour plant hundreds of blueberry plants. Enjoyed the last minute flurry of "winter" planting of only just still dormant trees in my own garden.   Hazelnuts, apricot, more apples and raspberry canes.  Just in the nick of time, as the tiny green buds are already shooting.

I've been enjoying selling our cakes at Salamanca on Saturday too.  I love that market. It's so vast, so big, and just has a crazy atmosphere I adore. We're lucky to be in such a great position.  Surrounded by long time stalls, many of them now run by the children of stallholders who started the market back in the 1970s.   The pie stall, the flower stall and the amazing coffee wagon, that not only does a roaring trade in jam doughnuts, but makes the most amazing coffee with milk from their own cows!  It tastes truly amazing.

Today, we're tackling the tiling around the hearth, more subway tiles, and later, black "slate" flagstones will be laid on the floor.  Then we'll take the dogs for a walk and prepare something quick and easy for dinner, using the goodies I picked from Harvest Feast, the stall next door to us.

Sundays. Family days. Right now.

Rad rads

"There's a whole stack of cast iron radiators out the very back of the salvage yard" to my ears dear reader, music to my ears.  I love that my builder knows every nook and cranny of every salvage yard around.  

It took a few weeks to find the time to head out over the bridge to search for these rads. And on Saturday, despite pouring rain, I was determined to go see these cast iron beauties. 

"Only the ones without legs are for sale" said the store man gruffly as he led me outside, briskly walking past three huge lumber sheds and into the far back corner that bordered a busy highway.  In the rain and mud, thankful I had the sense to wear gumboots, I climbed through the overgrown blackberry and there they were.  Three pallets stacked up with gorgeous old cast iron radiators.  In desperate need of some love.

Of the fifteen or so radiators, they all had legs except three.  Two of those were broken, which left only one worth buying.  A big heavy eight bar monster. Painted gold. We cut back the blackberry and the forklift was driven up to carry the beast to the car.  It is super heavy.   

To be honest, I have no idea if it will work.  Seems a more common practice in the UK and North America to restore these old radiators.  But I'm up for challenge and will give it a go. Next step is to get it tested, sandblasted, painted and buy some new feet for it.  A pretty easy process I've discovered after a few night's google research.  Once it's painted AWUSA it will look smashing, at a fraction of the cost of a new one.  We'll hook it up to the oven, which also heats water, and by next winter our house will be toasty warm.

One rad down, four more to go. 

Goodbye, hello

After 18 months of Sundays, we've finished up our stall at the Farmers Market.  It has been a great market to be involved in and we've made some lovely friends, but it's time to move on.

Remember we did a day at Salamanca recently?  Well, as it turns out, Ross and Matthew don't need their stall anymore, as they now have a gorgeous little food store in Salamanca open every day.   At the same time, our application for a spot at Salamanca was approved so it all worked rather nicely.  For the next month or so, we'll be there every Saturday, and during the summer we will take turns with some other Bruny Island producers.  So we will get a few weekends off.  Hooray!

And while we are a little sad to say goodbye to the Farmers Market, I have no regrets that it was the right decision when I told Elsa that I would be home on Sundays.  The look on her face as she realised that we could have every Sunday together told me instantly that it's the right move.  It made me realise how kids go along with things, even though they may not like it, and that perhaps me working every weekend was having more of an impact on them than I thought.

So, we'll be at Salamanca Markets every Saturday for a while, out the front of Fresh Fruit Market and next to Harvest Feast, sharing with Bruny Island Cheese and Anne's delicious tracklement stall.
However, sharing a stall with Bruny Island Cheese is going to be a huge test of my will power.  Check out this gorgeous new cheese, Pressings, ahem, I did have one or two little tastes of that one....

Eight houses

Eight houses in four years I counted yesterday.  That's how often we moved house before we finally found our little farmhouse in the Huon Valley.  That's a lot of boxes to pack when you're pregnant or carrying a little one on your hip. Or both.

Whilst moving every six months can be a real chore, it does mean you are constantly editing your belongings. And after almost five years in our little house, the lack of editing was made glaringly obvious this week when the contents of the pantry were stacked all over the kitchen.   The floor to ceiling built-in cupboards were ripped out and they housed not only our bulky pantry items but the high shelves had become a bit of dumping ground for the stuff we no longer use.  Conveniently hidden out of sight and out of mind.

Now that those cupboards are gone, we've limited storage space, so yep, it is time to say goodbye to those sipper cups and edit everything down to the bare essentials.   Sadly, this also means the end of my op shopping for china and linen habit.  There's just no room.  I had to take it all back, some with the op shop price tags still attached.

With four big boxes safely delivered back to the oppie, we now have a little more breathing space.  It feels quite liberating really.  The dodgey floor has been fixed up ready for tiling, the old hot water tank will go and a new one installed in the roof.   The new reclaimed window (above) will be installed once the rain clears later in the week.  Then we can enjoy a new clutter free and light kitchen. It will be like a new house, with the bonus of not having to actually to move yet again.


Cooking dinner for 100 people is a daunting task. And at midnight on Saturday, when it seemed there was no end in sight to getting those dishes washed, I wondered for a moment whether we'd bitten off more than we could chew.  Boom tish. 

Our school has a shiny new kitchen in an amazing new hall and we were lucky to be the first to use it on Saturday for the grand opening dinner. With a huge amount of help from some lovely talented folk we managed to cook a delicious meal for 107 people.  And proud to say that all the fresh produce was sourced from local and organic growers.  It was big.  It was hard yakka.  And I loved every minute. Well, okay, maybe by 12.30am when I thought we'd never finish the dishes, I did start to feel a bit weary.  But it was lots of fun.

It's taken two days to recover and now I've got a cold, so I'll keep sipping hot ginger tea and have a quiet week at home.   And even though there's a lot to do in the garden, I've still got 30 raspberry canes to plant, and my rather large fruit tree order to pick up and plant, I am hoping for a rainy day or two.  Because, our builder has pencilled us in for the next wet day.  He is coming to build a hearth in our kitchen.  For my new baby.  With which I will confidently say I shall not be tackling dinner for 100 any time soon. Maybe 20, 30, well okay 40 tops.