Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Mother Nature

Please - take just 1.58 minutes to watch, and listen to this.  I did, and I am humbled.  Julia Robert's voice adds a powerful emphasis to these words which I have transcribed below...



http://natureisspeaking.org/mothernature.html


"Some call me nature
Others call me "Mother Nature".

I'e been here for over 4.5 billion years - 22,500 times longer than you.

I don't really need people.
But, people need me.
Yes, your future depends on me.

When I thrive,
You thrive.
When I falter,
you falter.
Or worse.

But I've been here for eons.
I have fed species greater than you.
And I have starved species greater than you.

My oceans.

My soil.

My flowing streams.

My forests.

They all can take you.
Or leave you.

How you choose to live each day,
Whether you choose to regard, or disregard me,
doesn't really matter to me.

One way.

Or the other.

Your actions will determine your fate.
Not mine.

I am nature.
I will go on.

I am prepared to evolve.

Are you."

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Kitchen splashback

The state of the wall around the kitchen sink after living in the house for over 2 years is not acceptable.  Yes, mess happens, especially round the sink area.  I decided that it was definitely time to remedy the situation.
The kitchen sink area - a stunning view out of
 the window, but inside left much to be desired
   - it lacked a certain "je ne sais quoi"
Some of my new followers haven't seen some pictures that inspired me and about which I posted back in December 2011.

I just loved the "historical" look of the concept - the idea of leaving a permanent historical memento in the farmhouse.

This is what I am talking about...
A copper coin wall feature...
...and a copper coin floor.
Thankfully, RMan shared my attraction for the concept.

Well, I have been collecting copper coins since then.  To cover the area I estimated that we needed a couple of thousand of them.

But, coins don't come clean.  They come in all different shades of copper and various stages of cleanliness...
Some of the copper coins before they were cleaned
... so they needed cleaning :)  (As you can tell from the date on the photo's this process was started last year.)

Naturally, Google to the rescue again - "how to clean copper coins" was the search phrase.
Copper coins in vinegar
The toxic chemical abrasive agents were at the top of the lists.  Nope - not for me thanks.  The most eco-friendly ways I could find were to clean them in 1) vinegar, 2) tomato sauce and 3) coke.

So, first I tried vinegar...

... but it turned the coins a dull pink.

I didn't have commercial tomato sauce, and I'm not sacrificing my homemade sauce for this.

So, next up was...
Copper coins in flat coke
 ... placing some coins in coke.  We always have some coke on hand for instances of upset tummies (flat coke).  This method of cleaning the coins took much longer (3 - 5 hours of soaking) than the vinegar method, but did clean the coins more sparkly and to a more natural copper colour.
From left to right:
copper coins cleaned by the coke and
copper coins cleaned by the vinegar.

 The coke coins have a visible glow, whilst
the vinegar coins are dull
Three days of soaking a number of batches later...

...clean(er) coins :)
The copper coins, for the most part,
 cleaned up very nicely
Then RMan and I took the measurements.
Measurements of the
two areas next to the
kitchen sink
Then, we (well actually RMan) got to work on the plywood that we had purchased.
The measurements were
transferred to the plywood
Thank goodness RMan had
the angle grinder to complete
the task
The measurements were transferred to the plywood.  Not being too keen on woodwork, RMan doesn't have a jigsaw, and his circular saw gave up half way through the task (talk about planned obsolescence), so he resorted to using his angle grinder for the last small section(s).

Then, a retaining edge was tacked to the edge of the plywood, firstly to secure the coins, and secondly to retain the resin compound once it was poured onto the coins.
A retaining lip was added
to the plywood to prevent the

resin from seeping out
Some of the clean coins in a bag -
waiting to be placed on the plywood
So, when all of that was finished, I got busy with the bag full that I had collected - and started placing the coins on the plywood.

We decided, for history's sake, to leave the coins with the date facing upwards.

The result?
The way the light is reflected off the copper coin
splashback is gorgeous.  Isn't is funny how one
always "collects" containers near a sink - water jug,
bicarb in sprinkle bottle, vinegar pray, dishwash,
handwash, handcream.
 Stunning!  We love it :)
View of the splashback from the upstairs
mezzanine passage
The long section took 1390 coins, and the shorter section used just over 500 coins.

It was a lovely project to handle - RMan and I doing our creative thing together.  And getting down to it when it is getting chilly outside - the timing was perfect :)

Call all this work an investment LOL  Not only have we created a more pleasing feature of a utility area, but, with the value of the coins used, we have just increased the value of this house by roughly ZAR94.50  ($7.93 / £5.13 / 7.06)  Wow - how extravagant of us! Bwahahahaha...

The final question is : do we need coke in the house - even for upset tummies - if this is what happens to copper coins.  What is it doing to our stomachs overnight...?

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Frugal food

I don't know if anyone else battles with deciding what to cook for their evening meal.  Don't get me wrong, I love cooking - when I'm inspired.  And when I have the time.

But, sometimes it is a terrible chore...

Frequently, I can't find the inspiration / be bothered to think at 7 - 8 in the morning what I should take out of the freezer for our dinner roughly 11 - 12 hours later.  It's not as though everything that I take out can immediately be cooked when it is defrosted - sometimes it's easy, but too often it's the main ingredient of a recipe - which requires quite a bit of further attention / preparation in order to prepare the meal.

So, I often wish that I had some ready meals on hand.

Bulk cooking - to save  time and give me
inspiration

Last week I got stuck in and made some homemade ready meals.

Instead of just cooking enough mince for a spag bol (plus the inevitable remnants which hang around the fridge until I can hide them some way so that RMan eats the left-overs) I made 4 times the quantity (roughly 450 gms of ostrich mince).

Spaghetti Bolognaise - plus two portions in the freezer
big enough for a lasagne or two :)
That night we had our spag bol...
2 - 3 ready made cannelloni meals
The next day I took some of the remaining mince and stuffed some cannelloni tubes.

They went into the freezer as they are - and all it will take is opening a jar or two of my homemade tomato sauce, making a quick Bechamel sauce, putting the lot together in a baking dish with a sprinkling of grated cheese, and placing in the oven of the Rosie, and there you have it - an instant meal :)
My kale plants are producing madly...

...so I picked a bunch...
... and shoved them in my steamer.
Some of the mince Dolmades I made
When they were soft and pliable, they got filled with mince and rice - à la Dolmades or stuffed cabbage leaves style.
Whilst the leaves were steaming, I used the base of the pot to cook also steam some gem squash and carrots for our diner that night.  Why waste energy heating another pot - plus it's one less pot to wash lol

So, out of a normal four portions of mince I now had / have:

a  The portion of Spag bol which we ate for dinner
b  2 - 3 future Cannelloni meals
c  2 X future meals of Dani's Dolmades (which will be placed on a bed of kale and sliced carrots and just covered with hot chicken stock and baked for 3/4 - 1 hour, and served with an Avgolemono sauce)
d  2 X future portions of mince which I'll use for lasagnes.  (All I will need to do again is grab some lasagna sheets, open a jar or two of my homemade tomato sauce, whip up a quick Bechamel sauce - layer the lot in a baking dish, sprinkle some grated cheese and place in Rosie's oven.)

8 meals out of an amount of mince which would normally provide only 4.
This pot stand creates a perfect "keep
warm" spot on the Rosie and ensures
that the contents of the pot will not burn
at the bottom.
By the way, I'm loving having the Rosie fired up again, and, although the Rosie has a warming shelf, it is quite narrow height-wise.  Purchasing a simple pot stand, it now doubles up as a keep warm area on the Rosie - and it works perfectly :)

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Still baking...

The banana bread recipe that came with my Ma Baker bread machine was a disaster.

Although in the true sense of the word banana bread isn't "bread", but is actually a banana cake, which is baked in a loaf pan.  Which is probably where it gets it's name from...
The banana bread recipe from
my Ma Baker information / recipe
booklet
But, was the disastrous recipe the machine's fault or mine?  I dunno.
Dense and heavy - more like bread than cake
Nowhere in the recipe does it say anything about removing the mixing paddle.  But, although it needs initial mixing to combine the ingredients, it wouldn't need the paddle later in the recipe because the recipe doesn't contain any yeast.  So, hesitating, I left it in.

The result.

It was heavy, dense and stodgy - although it did taste like banana bread I wasn't happy.

So I went searching for a bread machine banana bread recipe, and found one here or at the end of this posting.
My second attempt - light, aerated, and definitely
banana bread - or should that be cake? lol
The changes I made to the recipe was to prep everything before placing the already mixed wet and dry ingredients into the baking pan - and I omitted the paddle.  And I used the "Bake" cycle, not the "Quick" one - which included mixing at the oddest times during the baking process.

Ah - that's more like it.
You can visibly see the difference between the
two recipes and resulting loaves.  The booklet
recipe loaf is on the right, and the new recipe is
on the left.
This was definitely banana bread as I know it.
660 watts - that means the Ma Baker, on
bake cycle, uses only 448 watts
(by deduction)
With the fridge (132 watts) the decoder, wi-fi and laptop (+/- 35 + 10 + 35 watts respectively) and the bread machine all working simultaneously, the Owl electricity monitor was displaying 660 watts.  Which means that the bread machine was only using 448 watts.  Now, can one possibly bake a cake with less power? ;)

My final question:  those that have, and use, bread a machine - do you use it for anything other than baking bread / cakes?  If so, would you care to share?



Ingredients  Serves: 10 

·        2 1/4 cups (280g) plain flour
·        1 teaspoon baking powder
·        1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
·        2/3 cup (150g) caster sugar
·        2 tablespoons (40ml) vegetable oil
·        2 eggs
·        2 bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise

Directions
Preparation:10min  ›  Cook:50min  ›  Ready in:1hour 

1.      Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine.
2.      Select the 'Dough' setting, and press 'Start'. Mix the bread for 3 to 5 minutes until the bananas are mashed and all ingredients are thoroughly combined. If necessary, use a rubber spatula to push the dough from the sides of the bread pan. When 3 to 5 minutes have passed on the clock display, press Stop. Do not continue mixing.  I sifted at the dry ingredients together, beat the eggs gently, mashed the banana and, mixing those two together, added the oil.  The wet mixture was then carefully added to the dry ingredients and the mixture was placed in the Ma Baker - sans the paddle.

Then I continued as the recipe states:

3.      Smooth out the top of the loaf with the rubber spatula.
4.      Select the 'Bake' setting, and press 'Start'. The 'Bake' cycle time may vary with machines, but should be about 50 minutes. To test the bread for doneness, insert a wooden skewer into the centre top. Remove the stick. If the bread is done, the stick will come out clean. If there is dough on the stick, reset the machine on Bake and continue to bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Test again to assure the bread is completely baked.
5.      Remove the pan from the machine, but allow the bread to remain in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the bread to cool completely on a wire rack.