A gift from Grandma

Normally when you have a birthday you receive gifts… but it seems when you’re 84 you are the giver. Recently I spent a wonderful few precious days with three amazing women… my grandma (it was her 84th birthday), my mum and my sister. There was much love, laughter and…. knitting… yup… knitting. I’m actually a little embarrassed to say that I didn’t know how to knit! The last time I remember anyone trying to teach me was my lovely Nanna when I was about 6 and I knitted three stripes of a Parramatta scarf (Sorry Dad, I mustn’t have had my heart in the team)…. and that’s it!  Grandma is the most amazing knitter…. she should be, she’s been doing it constantly since she was 6 and has clothed three generations of our family in her lovely creations.

And Grandma’s gift… is the gift of knitting, something she assures me will keep me company and give me comfort throughout my life. Gee… my gift to her of some beads that the boys moulded and painted themselves seems a little wanting!! So off we went to buy some wool and needles for my new venture.  It was nice to know you can buy bamboo needles and 100% wool or bamboo yarn. Of course I chose chunky needles and chunky wool for the chunky throw rug I want to make. Apparently not the easiest for a beginner, but I think it was a stroke of genius! For an impatient novice and time poor mum it’s so exciting to see my little creation take shape so quickly. Very excited that MAYBE by winter 2014 I’ll have my very own handmade throw / blanket…. complete with wool tied together at random intervals and rows that somehow leap from 40 to 44 stitches???!!!  (Apologies to any future grandchildren of mine… you’ll be getting hand-me-down booties and beanies from your great, great grandma’s needles… not these chunky babies!).


Communal Garlic

Isn’t it incredible the way food brings people together. It seems to be the glue of our social fabric…. food is always there. Sometimes it lurks in the wings and you hardly notice the doughy biscuit that slips down with the weak tea in a meeting, whilst it always hails as the main event at a family Christmas…. but sometimes, if you’re lucky, it brings new people into your life and cements a friendship. My family got lucky…. and we have garlic to thank!

plantinggarlic plantinggarlicwithkids garlicinground

Our family met Antonio and his family last year as we were all wallowing at a local waterfall swimming hole one stunning afternoon. We’ve since become good friends, but it has been garlic that has cemented the deal. Antonio had been cultivating his own organic garlic seed for many years, and then found himself between homes at time of planting, so asked us and another local family if he could plant on our properties and then we can share the crop. I just love this idea, communal garlic… and by November it certainly will be Peak Garlic!


Not only does Antonio get to continue the blood line of his beloved garlic, but we’ll get some free garlic and the beginnings of our own bloodline… and best of all, it’s brought our families closer together. Thank you garlic, and thank you Antonio. Stay tuned for Antonio’s tips on plaiting the garlic at the end of the year!


Gardening with Little People!

I’ve had a number of projects on the boil of late… who am I kidding, my life is a long list of projects that I conjure up! One very enjoyable project was helping a local childcare centre “Little Peoples Early Learning Centre”, where my boys attend, set up their veggie patch.

It was really lovely to have all the children so enthusiastic about gardening and wanting to help out. We donned hats and gloves and got to work adding lots of yummy goodness to the soil (compost and manure) and then the kids started burying the plants… literally. Luckily we had lots… not sure how many will survive the enthusiasm!

empty-garden boysdiggingatpreschool preschoolplants

As you can see the space we had to work with was rather long and narrow, but perfect for little arms to reach for planting, and picking when the time comes!  We put in a lovely winter crop of lettuce, peas, strawberries, chives, silverbeet, beetroot and carrots… with lots of marigolds for keeping the pests at bay and for lovely colour in the kids play ground.

preschoolgardenfull carrots preschoolgarden2 preschoolgarden


‘Little Peoples’ cook their own meals on site, so hopefully the children will be able to pick part of their own lunch very soon.  A most rewarding time, thank you Little Peoples!

(NB.The plant labels I used are the ones I made out of yoghurt containers a few blogs ago… and we’ve had a few not adhere very well to the paddle pop sticks. If you’re going to try it, go for a stronger glue!)




Beauty Products

I find beauty product advertising totally bamboozling! I’d like to think I’m bright enough not to be duped by the promises of winding clocks back or that a simple wipe of a cream will have me looking 20 again… but really… why would they need to advertise if they could do that???!!!  I’d love to say that as I wouldn’t take back a second of my life, then I love all the lines my life has worked hard at… but I’m human… so I can’t! What I can do is start to educate myself on what I choose to put on my skin and on that of my children. Realistically you’d have to be a chemist to work out those ingredients lists, so I’ve resorted to reading studies (that I hope HAVE been done by chemists!!). It seems there are some really nasty chemicals being mixed into products we slather all over our bodies on a daily basis. According to the Environmental Working Group (a nonprofit group – www.ewg.org) only 11% of 10,500 ingredients in beauty products have been tested for safety.  So it seems we should be wary of many ingredients, but a few that you may have  been made aware of through labels often claiming they are FREE of these chemicals are: Parabens, Phthalates, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Lauryl Ethen Sulfate (SLES)… so, what are they? Well… here is a little background…


Parabens are chemical preservatives that have been identified as estrogenic and disruptive of normal hormone function. Estrogenic chemicals mimic the function of the naturally occurring hormone estrogen, and exposure to external estrogens has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer.

Pthalates are synthetic chemicals known to cause birth defects and lifelong reproductive impairment in lab animals exposed during pregnancy and after birth. They are also hormone mimicking chemcials, many of which disrupt normal hormone processes, raising concerns about implications for increased breast cancer risk.

SLS and SLES – a foaming agent derived from coconut oil. Used in toothpasted, shampoo, bubble bath and soap. Proven skin irritant but could also be carcinogenic.  (Sophie Uliano – Gorgeously Green).


So…. I’m doing my best to buy products that are healthier for me, and the environment…. cause all these toxins head down our sinks. And guess what…. a lot of the time these products are CHEAPER than what I was buying before!!


Green Tomato Relish

I may be spilling a family secret here… sorry Pop… but seriously, this recipe should be shared far and wide, it’s DELICIOUS!!!!Technically my lovely late Pop’s recipe is for ripe tomatoes, but due to a glut of green tomatoes (three buckets full) at the end of their growing season this batch is green… (well kind of sludge brown, but if it deters others from munching it then all the more for me!).


Three buckets of green tomatoes makes quite a lot of relish, and as most of them were cherry tomatoes it took a looooong time to prepare. I’d recommend using large tomatoes as it is so much easier in the slicing phase… I was up till midnight. But the results were worth it. I also made a hot spicy batch for those that prefer a little kick.  And I know, I know… what’s with the funny little fabric jar toppers… Well I found some offcuts of calico and thought I’d make some look pretty so I’d have ready to go gifts – 6 jars already gone.



1.5kg tomatoes (ripe or green depending on what your garden has thrown at you!)

2 large brown onions

2 cups brown vinegar

4 level cups of sugar

1 level tsp of curry powder

1 level tsp of mustard (or not in my case)

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Method: Soak tomatoes in hot water so skin will come off easily (I totally skipped this step with the green toms… I mean really, that would have been FAR too tedious!). Cut up tomatoes with onions and sprinkle with salt. Leave overnight. Next day: Drain off liquid. Add vinegar to ingredients. Bring to boil. Add sugar, curry, mustard and cayenne. boil about 1 hour. Thicken with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of plain flour mixed with vinegar. Make as thick as jam.  Store in sterilized jars. Enjoy!


2.5kg green tomatoes

0.5kg onions

4tsps salt

1L malt vinegar

0.5kg soft light brown sugar

3 tsp ground pepper

Method: Finely slice onions and green tomatoes. Add salt and stir – cover and leave overnight. Next day: Place a litre of vinegar into a large pan, add sugar and stir until sugar dissolves. Drain tomato/onion mix and add to vinegar mix with white pepper. Stir well and bring to a gentle boil for 1.5 to 2 hours until thick. Pop into sterilized jars and enjoy!