The Mis en Place of life

Hi All,

This is post number 3 that I have up my sleeve…what a luxury! I have been guilty of only having about a quarter of a post ready to post on the day that I am due to post it. Not only that, but I have also been guilty of realising that the day got away from me and that I have 1 hour to post…as a natural processes person I take great delight in the deliciousness of order and progression and I try to do as many things as I can to smooth the way through our days. I love prep. I love to get things ready and sort things out and am a maestro of mis en place when it comes to recipes. I learned it the hard way and getting everything that you need ready before you start something is a wise lesson to learn. Another wise lesson is to clean up your previous mess before you start a new task. My grandmother always pushed “Clean up as you go along” as her mantra. It stuck. I hate a great pile of dishes to do after I cook so as I cook I wash dishes and wipe them at the same time. At the end of the process there may be some dinner dishes to do but not many. I hate waking up to dishes, or a messy kitchen. It’s a new day after all and a new day deserves a clean start. I know that some of my processes annoy Steve. I can only imagine what his flat in the U.K. looked like but I have a good idea ;). Steve lived on his own and was able to drag a doona out to the couch whilst watching television. He could leave his guitar and amp in the lounge room where it would remain (un-chewed by Earl) until he felt like playing it next. He could dump his clothes on the floor until he ran out of them and could head down to the Laundromat just around the corner to throw a load of washing into the machine and the pace of his life was completely centred on his own processes. We have been together for 14 years now (16 if you count the 2 years we spent in an extremely long distance online relationship) and he still doesn’t get why he can’t just throw his clothes on the floor by the bed when he wants to sleep…”it’s not like I am dropping them in the lounge is it?”…but for once, Earl is coming to my rescue. Earl has started to invade Steve’s deftly dropped clothing…I have an early morning disclaimer here…I did NOT train Earl to demolish any of Steve’s carelessly dumped items…he learned how to do it all by himself! ;). Earl has started pulling things out of Steve’s pockets. Steve really only has himself to blame because he leaves bags of dog treats in his pockets and Earl is always ready to find food. Earl is also ready to extract anything else out of pockets that have been carelessly left at Earl’s beak level and he is VERY good at it. Steve wakes up to find chewed up sweet wrappers (minus the sweets 😉 ), dog poo bags that have been deftly rendered useless (Earl has a problem with us picking up his deposits…he deposited them for a reason and is annoyed and somewhat disgusted that we pick them up after he carefully places them at the topmost point of grass clumps and bushes and low walls…) and obviously the dog treats disappear (that goes without saying) and Steve has a habit of cramming his pockets with all sorts of bits and pieces and Earl has now taken to bypassing sticking his nose into Steve’s pockets and just chews right through till he gets what he wants to amuse him. You can’t blame Earl, you have to look squarely at the person dumping their clothes on the floor and you REALLY have to wonder why this person is STILL DOING IT AFTER EARL ATE HIS PANTS!…stubborn willfulness won’t put the ass back in your pants Steve 😉

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I LOVE having a post up my sleeve 🙂 Here is a photo up my sleeve to match the post up my sleeve. We think that this is some kind of funky ferry but whatever float-a-ma-jig it is, it’s most certainly interesting

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We took the dogs to the dog park today. We took a tennis ball and a rope ring and all the good intentions in the world. Earl tried to slip under the gate and run away and Bezial stood still for 15 minutes sniffing the same blade of grass for the entire time…After we got disgusted with them (the YOUTH OF TODAY!) we got back in the car and noticed this pretty picture so the effort wasn’t entirely wasted on our plebian dogs! 😉

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Check out the olde worlde last century chalk folks! I am getting school memories just looking at it 😉

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May as well stick with the boaty theme of this first set of photos and post a pic of the tug that zooms up and down the river. I say “zooms”, it actually “Chugs” very VERY loudly

Ok, fingers crossed…I am just about to turn the modem back on after a 20 minute hiatus. If it is stuffed we are going to have to head into town soon and get another one because our studies demand that we have an online connection. I will let it do its thing (blinky blinky green lights blinky blinky and a bit more blinking) for a while and will then test and see if I have the net back. This could change our plans for the day and we might have to take an emergency trip into the city to buy a new modem. I hope not, we are saving at the moment. We want to get ahead with our bills and save some money for emergencies and for when bills that are unexpected come in. Penniless student hippies live pretty close to the breadline…in fact; most of us live UNDER the breadline. We are not complaining, we choose this life and are prepared to bypass all sorts of wants and desires in order to keep living the way that we live BUT “The Man” demands a pound of flesh on a regular basis and we don’t have much choice but to pay at the moment. That means “money” and even though we don’t receive a lot of money as students (we get even less than people bumming around doing nothing on the dole) we are still able to save up and we found a plan that if we stick to it, we should arrive at the other end of it with a significant amount of savings for a “rainy day”. Like most other things in life I have a “better safe than sorry”. For a girl who rebelled against her grandmothers “tyrannical rule” on a constant basis, I think I am starting to turn into her! Those early lessons keep coming back “better safe than sorry”, “clean up as you go along”, “don’t put your shoes on the table or you will never be able…” (“Able” to what gran? I had 3 kids after loading up the table with shoes and your method of birth control SUCKS! 😉 )…all sorts of little wisdoms that annoyed the heck out of me when I was forced to comply but that keep coming back to me now as solid proof that my grandmother was a wise and wonderful soul. I didn’t appreciate you enough gran, you really knew your stuff! I think I might be like her…It has only taken me almost 50 years to admit that and she died last century (makes it sound like a lifetime ago doesn’t it? 😉 ). Time to test that connection… (Fingers crossed… 😉 ….

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Here’s the nectarine tree at my daughters house in town AFTER I spent 2 hours removing blackberries from it’s protective circle

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Here is the pile of blackberries removed and on a tarpaulin so that the rotten things don’t invade Poland and start growing from pieces. “Fool me ONCE!” 🙂

Well it looks like it’s either the modem has died or Google has decided to deposit one of Earls mighty dumps on my head for daring to use a tag in last night’s post called “Better than Google Reader” ;). Either way it’s just you and me this morning and those 300+ blog posts are just going to have to wait. I made a wonderful sourdough carrot cake last night. I have made it 2 times now and both times it was amazing. The funny thing about it is that the recipe states that the cake is “nothing special, just a wholesome cake to eat with a cup of tea”… I have never made a carrot cake (before this) that worked. My carrot cakes were always too moist and gluggy and the texture was wrong. This cake has consistently given excellent results and has Steve actually asking me to make it. I threw some ground ginger into the mix along with lots of cinnamon last night and Steve tasted it and pronounced it wonderful (even though he doesn’t like ginger and has NO idea it is in there 😉 ). I love experimenting with recipes and this one is a completely different recipe to the sourdough chocolate cake recipe that I have been baking. In last night’s version I cut the oil back to ½ cup and upped the amount of kefir (not actually called for in the recipe) and added 2 tsp of organic vanilla extract to the mix. I think the trick is in grating the carrots very finely and squeezing them out to get a dry pulp to add to the mix. Whatever the processes, the end results are stellar and my new go-to snacking cake for Steve to have with a coffee. The dogs love it as well and actually beg for it. I took my desire to offload the enormous quantity of mature kefir that I have been amassing of late to a new level. I used a cup and a half (I still have over 2 litres to use up) of very thick mature kefir (it looked like very thick sour cream or Greek yoghurt) in Steve’s quiche last night. I was prepared for a backlash because Steve is VERY suspicious of new things in his favourite recipes but he said that he couldn’t taste anything different and kefir has just elevated itself into a usable commodity on Serendipity Farm…”YIPEE!” I can now add it to all sorts of things with impunity :o). That means that if I want to make a creamy potato bake with bacon, capsicum, caramelised onions, garlic and cheese, I can opt out of paying for sour cream and can use copious quantities of kefir in its place. My little grains work overtime to produce this unctuous thick rich probiotic stuffed product and I owe it to them to use it in abundance. Unlike Jess (Rabid from www.rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com ) I don’t have 3 kefir loving mouths to consume my kefir as soon as the grains produce it and I have to think how I am going to use it. With Steve’s newfound acceptance I can use it with impunity and might even make some kefir icecream after I toss the icecream base into the freezer overnight. The amazing thing about kefir is that it doesn’t go off. It contains in excess of 60 different probiotics and seems to be able to ward off any other invaders so long as I keep it in the fridge it is fine. My stockpile is going to disappear rapidly now that I know I can use it and Steve won’t reject the results with suspicion.

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We decided to open up the computer desk to get maximum space today and ended up making room for a large pine box that we can store things in as well as dealing with the cables that were snaking out all over the place behind the P.C. and making a haven for dust. Much better 🙂

I think I need 10 points and maybe a factotum gold star for not hyperventilating about my inability to use the net today. My early mornings are actually tied up in online use and this morning I am sitting here in the dark tapping blog posts to my dear constant readers rather than expunge my readers exponentially increasing backlog of posts (just typing that made me think I need a paper bag!). I guess Steve is going to have to use his techy skills when he gets up. My instinct is to give it a whack but I will curb that instinct because technology and “bashing” tend to result in dollar signs ;). We have been working a bit ahead of our course because we finished and handed in all of our work early (can anyone say “big fat factotums!” 😉 ) and rather than sit here twiddling our thumbs we are working through our next unit. I know we aren’t meant to be doing this till next term and that we have an assessment that we have to complete on this Design unit but we haven’t been given it yet and so we will continue to work through our next unit on Photoshop. We are enjoying it immensely and are learning a lot about digital manipulation of images. Yesterday Steve was able to help my brother sort out a problem using what we have learned so far. My brother is going to attempt to sell some of his lovely photos at the local markets where he lives on the weekend. He has been paying a premium to print out A0 poster sized prints at the printers but couldn’t work out how to get more than 1 panorama on an A0 sheet and was only using ¼ of the sheet in the process. Steve sorted it out for him yesterday and now he can get 4 panoramas on an A0 sheet and is saving himself $90 a sheet. It’s great to be able to put what you are learning into practical use and help people at the same time.

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Looks like it’s gutter cleaning time again… 😦

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“Hmmm How did you get up that ladder eh?”

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“It certainly looks like a lot of fun…”

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“Ok, I recon I could handle it…”

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He didn’t manage to climb the ladder but Steve did along with his trusty muck bucket and blow-a-ma-jig

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Isn’t it funny how last year this was disgusting to me and this year I see it as a precious resource? It’s all a matter of how you look at things :). Notice that black “thing” (that’s about all it could still be called…) on the right hand side of the bucket? It is one of a pair of “black things” that Steve fished out of the gutter and then was able to identify as some of his socks that he obviously put up on the gutter in order to prevent Earl from predating them…the problem with that very clever idea sir, is that you forgot about them and they got blown into the gutter where they have been mouldering for the best part of 8 months 😉 Needless to say they now reside in the bin! That bucket was a “found thing” that we discovered on our walk discarded amongst the bushes today. It’s an old oil bucket that blew over from the Exeter Show recently and that Steve eagerly took receipt of and will be stowing in the Mumbly Cumumbus as his new bailing/fish bucket

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Apparently the roof is Steve’s domain and this mess blown down onto the deck is mine…funny how no-one talked about this “Domain” stuff prior to Steve heading up the ladder with his blow-a-ma-jig eh 😉

When we were at our graduation ceremony last week, we had a chat to Meg, the team leader of another course who was helping out on the night to take registrations and direct graduates in the right direction when they arrived at the ceremony. Meg is a wonderful generous person who works with disabled and indigenous people to teach them how to create horticultural spaces. She specialises in environmental science and is perfect for the job. She is eminently qualified and her caring nature makes her ideal for helping people to use what they have to facilitate positive changes in their lives and make the most of their situation. Meg loves Steve and I and we love her right back. I think Meg has romantic goggles on and thinks that it would be wonderful to work with your partner and study/learn together. That might be the case if you weren’t exact opposites and had NO idea how the other person can even function with brain/thought processes like that! Steve and I are slowly learning to adapt to each other’s processes but they are as foreign and alien to each other as to be bordering on crazy and as we both think that we are right in our own processes, it can sometimes be a difficult process in itself to unite and learn anything together. We have learned to break down the task into what Steve does best and what I do best. I research best…I type best…I am good at problem solving and Steve is technical and stubbornly keeps going till he works it out. Together we are formidable in both the French meaning of the word AND the English version ;). If we can’t get the net back today we are going to have to find a solution for this problem. Hopefully it is just the network and isn’t anything to do with our connection per-se but it’s been a long time since we had to phone up Dodo and try to wade through those Indian accents to get to someone who isn’t in automatic damage control and who insists that the problem doesn’t lie with them…let’s just hope that the problem can bypass the need to phone Dodo. I feel a headache brewing if it can’t…

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The meat and onions and garlic cooking for Steve’s “BEST EVER” chilli recipe just before the red wine goes in…

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Some of the other ingredients and the recipe. This chilli is truly unctuous and gorgeous and we haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like it yet. We used to make this in HUGE vats when we volunteered at the local Salvation Army kitchen to help feed the homeless. Steve’s chilli is still talked about long after we stopped working there (and they have probably forgotten who we are but that chilli speaks for itself 🙂 ). We will make you some when you come Kymmy 🙂

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Not the greatest photo but this chilli bubbles away to an unctuous thick delicious flavoursome pot of heaven and served with some steamed rice and some oven wedges (home made of course) it will be Steve’s happiness tonight 🙂

It is 6.10am and I have managed to write 3 posts all bordering on the gargantuan this morning. I could keep typing posts but I fear they would be obsolete before I posted them! So I am not too sure what I am going to do now with the next hour before I wake Steve with a cup of coffee and wait 30 minutes while he wakes up slowly before I dump the problem with the net on him. I have lots of things that I can do today that don’t involve the net. We have the lizard piles of wood to collect up (and maybe a lizard rescue might be on the cards) and deposit under the deck and out of the weather (should “the weather” ever decide to come that is 😉 ), I have plans to use as much of my kefir in cooking today as I can. I need my fridge back! Kefir and sourdough starters don’t mix well. I only found out the other day that kefir makes a perfectly good starter all by itself! I didn’t realise that kefir has lots of yeast and that it can be used to raise a loaf of bread and might test it out one day. I know that when I add it to sourdough cakes in place of milk, the cakes always rise well and have an excellent flavour so perhaps I can take advantage of this in some of my recipes. I want to get hold of some water kefir grains in the near future and will be converting half of Kid Creole’s coconuts into true coconut milk loving babies. If they die I will just keep trying to convert more as Kid produces them. He seems content to repopulate the earth with his progeny at the moment so that isn’t an issue. I have been researching and it is entirely possible to convert kefir milk grains to coconut milk grains or soymilk grains… it just takes persistence and a slow progression. I make my own coconut milk (out of coconuts…what a coincidence! 😉 ) and as such, I end up with coconut water as part of the equation. I would like to use it productively to make water kefir and so I might have to send a quick missive with accompanying moola off to Dom in South Australia to avail myself of some of his amazing water kefir grains. I want to experiment with various juices (including the über sweet carrot juice I squeeze from the carrots that I use to make Steve’s sourdough carrot cake staple) and fermenting them.

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On one side we have Steves oven wedges marinating in olive oil, chilli, pepper and salt and ready to go onto the bbq after the dessert on the other side is cooked

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This is the way that I cook apples now. I prefer it to using water or juice. I thinly slice the apples and fry them gently in butter, cinnamon, mixed spice and a tsp of organic vanilla extract till they are tender and then I add 1/2 cup of sugar (you could use rapadura or coconut sugar or honey or whatever you like here) and after a few minutes cooking in the resulting syrup I remove the apples and reduce the syrup to a thick caramel that I then pour over the apples. The results are superb and so far removed from apples stewed in water they could hardly be considered the same thing. I call them my “toffee apples” and use them as a base for my crumbles and for tonights dessert which will be covered in a light vanilla sponge and served with custard. Steve has earned his chilli and dessert tonight with his antics on the roof 🙂

I have been stretching out my posts in order to ignore having to deal with the fact that the modem is not working properly. It might be something to do with the weather (although I am bordering on my mother’s steadfast desire to cling to superstition there! Whoa neddy! 😉 ) but my guess is that our network is down and that an unmarked white van will turn up at the little wooden box up the road that is ostensibly Telstra’s and that Dodo has to share with them and will do a bit of fiddling around and hopefully the problem will be solved. I dare say you will know if we get back online by the presence or absence of posts ;). I am going to leave it there for today folks. It’s now 6.21am and the rubbish truck just took our rubbish and soon the recycling truck will be rumbling past to collect our recycling as well. It is still dark but I can spend the next 30 minutes getting ahead of my processes thus allowing us to launch into our day a bit earlier than we normally would. I hope you all have a wonderful day and weekend ahead of you and that you are able to spend some quality time doing what you truly love to do. See you all on Saturday  :o)