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Monday, August 31, 2009

New Deck Plants

I was promised by Husband that I would get all new plants once I got back on my feet since I allowed him to let every plant we had die while I was in bed (the broken ankle thing). Everything except the Phalaenopsis Orchid, which I got from my sister for my b-day last year. I did buy my orchid a new home though, since it was well and truly out growing the old one. Hopefully I get a bud stem soon...I'm losing hope for this year, but I might put it outside for night for a few weeks before it gets too hot. The cooler nights are supposed to promote a new stem, but I'm still learning about orchids...

Hubby was so busy taking care of me, himself, the house and working, I was not about to ask him to water my plants every day, and pick off the dead heads, and check for pests, and treat the one that already had pests. So, I let it go, and left the evidence as-is until a few weekends ago. I still had two geraniums somehow surviving last summer, and barely hanging on until now-winter. I dug them out, and re-potted them separately, and we'll see how they recover.

The most painful part of all this was finding the tags from when I originally bought all those plants. I don't even want to try and remember how much I spent back then. This time I took it well and truly easy. I picked two larger plants, one Coleus (which promises to turn red) and the other a white mini bougainvillea. Then I accented with red & white: white begonia and red dianthus.

They had almost no bedding plants at the nursery I went to, so those were the only red and white flowering plants they had. I have a thing for red & white, and rarely buy any other flowering plants of other colours. Mainly because I've only ever had small deck planters, and no garden to speak of, so I like to keep it simple, and I love RED!

I also bought strawberries...


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Caramel Ginger Crunch Cookies

I've been getting into trying new foods lately, not anything extreme, just not being scared to try something different. Sushi is the latest new thing for me. I've had it a few times over the years, but it's never been that great. Then we went out for sushi a while back, and loved it! Anyhow, I've also been trying new dessert ideas too, not just sticking to my regular "anything with chocolate is good enough" ideals. This recipe surprised me. It was way better than I thought it would be, and I will definitely put these on the list of cookies to make at Christmastime (if I can be bothered to bake in this heat). I'm kind of getting into ginger, and I should try some cooking with ginger one of these days...


2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda for the Aussies)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup caster sugar
125g cold butter, chopped
1 egg
1 tsp golden syrup
2 tbsp finely chopped glacé ginger

1. Preheat oven to 160°C (140°C fan forced) or 325°F and line cookie sheets with baking paper
2. Combine dry ingredients and butter with a processor until crumbly. Add egg, syrup & ginger and process until ingredients hold together, then knead until smooth.
3. Roll rounded spoonfuls of dough into balls and slightly flatten the tops.
4. Bake for 13 minutes. Place a caramel on top of each hot cookie and bake for a further 7 minutes, or until caramel has melted.

The dough is strange (to me) in this recipe, and it's not something I am used to, but it worked out beautifully. I also don't have a food processor, so it took a little more muscle as I cut the butter into the mixture. I kneaded it until it was sticking together. It may have helped me to be living in some humidity. I bought Werther's Originals for the caramels, and was short by a quite a few, so I hit them once in the centre with the edge of my marble rolling pin, and they almost all broke fairly neatly in half. KEEP THE WRAPPERS ON if you do this! I tried once without, and there ended up being shards of caramel all over my floor, which soon was a mess of sticky goo (because of the humidity here).

This recipe comes from the Women's Weekly cupcakes cheesecakes cookies cookbook.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Creamy Vegetable Pasta

Here is another copy-cat recipe from my friend Nicole (here is the first one). She loves to cook and bake, and does it SO well! She once again made the entire family dinner (that was food for 7 of us). I loved it, it was amazing. So, I decided to copy her again :) It was a creamy cheesy veggie pasta dish. Except I changed the creamy cheese sauce to a creamy tomato sauce.

Tortellini (any flavour, really, but I used a spinach & cheese stuffed tortellini), or Ravioli
Spaghetti Sauce (any flavour)
Bacon, chopped
Zucchini, chopped
Pumpkin, chopped
Onion, chopped
Garlic, minced
(other veggies if you want, maybe carrot and red peppers - capsicum, to you Aussies)
Parmesan Cheese

*Chop up pumpkin into smaller pieces, and pan fry in some olive oil. Add chopped up zucchini once the pumpkin starts to soften. Add chopped onions & garlic as well.

*Fry bacon and chop it up into small pieces.

*Heat up spaghetti sauce in a pot, and add cream. We like it slightly more tomato-y, so I use a jar of sauce and about 1/3 to 1/2 cup cream. I also add my own spices to the pre-made sauces as they never quite taste nice enough on their own. So add any other spices you like (oregano, pepper, rosemary, etc...)

*Cook tortellini to package instructions.

*Add veggies to the sauce, and heat the sauce and veggies together for a few minutes. Serve over pasta with some grated Parmesan cheese. Yummmm

This was my first time cooking pumpkin, so it was a little mushy, and kind of blended into the sauce more than I would have liked. You might not want to cook the veggies in the sauce then...either way, it still tasted nice.

Once again, sorry for the crappy photo. Our lighting is terrible in this place, and it's dark before we eat dinner every night, so I never get nice dinner photos.


Aprons, Part II - the old batch -

Here are the aprons I made for my Sisters, Mom & Grandma last Christmas:


Sunday, August 23, 2009


About a year ago I was on a real sewing marathon; I was sewing bibs, burp cloths, dresses, skirts, aprons, and other little projects I am still working out. Then came the busy month of December, and before I knew it, I was lying in bed for the first quarter to half of this year, and unable to really do much of anything (except baking) until June (since my sewing machines, and all craft supplies are in the garage, which is down 17 stairs, which was too awkward for me to be going back and forth, and getting up and down). It feels so good to be back at it, and seeing all the fabrics I picked out a year ago for all my various projects.

The latest project I picked up again was aprons. They are so nostalgic and cute (and functional). For Christmas last year I made aprons for my Mom, Sisters and my Grandma as stocking stuffers. Sorry to say, but I don't think I will be topping that this year, unless some new inspiration hits me. Instead, I plan to finish off the 8 I had planned originally (only 2 left!).

I'm trying not to move from project to project, leaving a mass of unfinished ideas behind. I've always wanted to sell things on Etsy too. I'm unsure if it's really a good idea or not, since there are so many copy-cats on there, but as long as I am selling un-original ideas, then maybe it'll be fine (?) Or selling things that I doubt people will be able to copy in a heartbeat...I have yet to make something so original though.

Anyhow, here is my favorite new apron:

It's so delicate looking and nostalgic, but not "retro" in that pushy annoying cherry cupcakes way that is so popular right now (which I do's just too overdone these days). I made it for my friend Sam, and gave her some matching paper napkins & some candles for her birthday.

I also made a cute little pin for the apron (or for whatever):

I was thinking of trying to sell these on etsy...I suppose I can't lose, and might as well give it a try...

I used this pattern for the aprons from Living Creatively. I have altered the pattern to suit my needs, like pockets, and a trim at the bottom, etc.

I used this pattern for the flowers from Martha Stewart. I sewed the flowers each separately to create a fuller bloom, and then I sewed the flower to brooch pins I bought.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Banana Fritters

It was our anniversary on the 12th. Six years we've been married! Feels like a a GOOD way! This year we weren't in a position to go all out, so we had a nice, but very sopping wet dinner out. It was a beautiful, warm day in which I had a million errands to run, all while watching a huge dark cloud slowly make its way to the coast. It finally hit us with some nice thunder and lightning, just before a walk (since I can't run yet) back to the car. I got SOAKED. But it was so fun!

For dessert, I decided to make Banana Fritters, from The Essential Dessert Cookbook I received last year for my birthday. It was the one recipe Adam picked out that he wanted to try. They were so good! We were still full from dinner, so most of them went into the garbage, but it was worth a taste...And the homemade caramel sauce will not go to waste!

Here is the exact recipe I used from the book. The batter was so nice, and I will use it again for others things. We had left overs, since I only did two bananas, and so we deep fried some mini chocolate bars, and a few other randoms we found in the fridge. Yummm.


31 Weeks

Still getting there...slowly still, but progressing. My new physio instructions are gearing me up to start running, but I don't know when that will be. Right now she's got me jumping and as soon as I can, hopping on the bad leg alone. Jumping feels so weird. I can't explain it, other than it feels like you injured your foot and then you are jumping on it. I'm so sore at the back of my heel. But now I can jump to see what's in the top cupboards, instead of getting Adam to have a look for me.

To make everything take even longer, I hurt my back about two weeks ago, and have to take it a lot slower. I spent 3 days in bed, in pain, and I don't know what I did, except lean over to brush my teeth (and I even leaned over they way physio told me to, bend at the hips!). I think it was just muscular though, as I know what it feels like to herniate disks. I am still a little sore, though back to normal activities again.

I must be getting old. Long ago, I remember thinking, how could anyone hurt only muscle, and not be able to move? Now I know. You sure recover quicker as a kid, and I never remember being so sore as a kid. I also now see that if you stop moving, your body deteriorates quickly, and I can see how the elderly go downhill fast when they get sick, and have to stay in bed for weeks. It's so important to keep moving.

I've also learned that weight-baring exercise is the best for your bones, so if you want to keep healthy, you need to lift weights AND do cardio. I think people think cardio is good enough, but you need those weight-baring exercises to keep your bones strong.

I still plan on making a full recovery...we'll see how that goes. As long as I can jump on the trampoline again, go snowboarding, hike Mt Coolum, and run on the beach, I will be happy. I'm fine with everlasting pain (not nerve pain though!), as long as I can move like I used to.

Knee to wall was my best yet last week - 7.5cm!

The nerve pain specialist appointment is a week from Monday. I am so happy. I am hoping for good news, but slightly worried about hearing "chronic pain" or "regional pain syndrome". I really want off of these drugs.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Savory Buns

Using the same recipe, I needed an excuse to be allowed to make a few more cinnamon buns, so I conned hubby by offering to make some savory rolls with the same dough. It was actually his idea - smart guy! I used the exact same recipe, though I divided the dough into three parts this time, instead of two.

I spread one with pizza sauce green onion and olives. The next one I spread with butter, and sprinkled crushed garlic, green onion, and mozza cheese. Once I rolled each section up, I cut them into thinner strips too, so they made smaller, neater and nicer rolls. I let them rise, and then sprinkled a little bit more cheese on top, and baked for about 12 minutes. These were so delicious! And worked really well with a sweet dough. I noticed the garlic was even sweet all by itself, but they tasted really nice. A perfect snack, and they freeze well too! I'll definitely do these again, they were so easy.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I finally have made use of the gift my Mom & Sisters sent me while I was in bed for the better part of this year. I tried this one design a few times on my own, and always got stuck. I finally decided to try another project, and see if I could figure things out. It worked! The "stitch" I was stuck on was, in fact, not a stitch as such, but an explanation of what I should see when I reach that point on the instructions. Since then I have made a few cloths, doilies, and even a flower. I've come along way since this.

There are so many resources online, but one I have used a lot is Crochet N More. There are so many videos on youtube as well, and tons of free patterns online. So far I have mainly worked patterns from the book my family sent, and a pattern off of a skein of yarn. If you sign up at Bernat, you can download PDF's of free patterns too.

The books I have started with are Contemporary Crochet by Coats which has some really cute patterns, and tells you all the stitches you need to know. I tried an intermediate (level 3) pattern, and it worked really well. It seems quite easy to pick up (you just have to remember where you left off when you take a break!). And check your gauge! The other book I have is Crochet Made Easy also by Coats (looks like my book is no longer for sale, as it might have updated to a newer version now). It has more detailed stitch illustrations, and I use this book to compliment the Contemporary Crochet patterns.

And here are a few projects I have completed. I use the acrylic rose coloured one for outdoor chores, like washing windows, or cars, or the deck and stairs, like I did today. I also used one to wash our salt crystallized walls. It has just enough roughness to easily clean up messes without being too harsh on the wall. Bernat pattern.

The white cotton one is for dishes, and works so nicely. Since it's cotton, it is a little heavier than the rose acrylic, but feels nicer. This pattern is from Contemporary Crochet.

And I used this black doily for setting a vase on our table so it doesn't get scratched. I didn't check my gauge on this one, and you can tell. But it worked well for a first try. This pattern is from Contemporary Crochet. I still need to hide the ends of the yarn...


Friday, August 7, 2009

29 Weeks

I went to my final specialist appointment today. Big waste of time, but I suppose it was important to go. I am allowed to start running, if I can, as long as I don't fall, he says. That's good news at least. And a lump that has been bothering me is only scar tissue, so that's good news too.

Somehow, minutes before I was supposed to leave for the appointment, I hurt my back. I could barely walk, and driving was probably not the smartest idea. As soon as I got home, I took the rest of my left over morphine tablets, and went to bed. Seems I might be here for a few days now though. What is UP with me? Drama seems to follow me wherever I go. This is excruciating too. I think I may have hurt myself because I have been trying to catch up on the last 6 months without a decent work-out. I did a large number of sit-ups yesterday, and I must have not used proper form. At least it feels muscular, and not more sciatic. Hopefully all I need is a good sleep since I have so much to do around here! I am still catching up on properly cleaning the house, and the blinds and walls are in desperate need of a clean. I also have 4 loads of un-folded laundry!

Other than my failing body, I got the call I have been waiting for! I am booked in for the pain clinic! I'm so happy. I once again cried after I got the call. But it's so sad to get the call and have them ask you if you still want an appointment, like you might be over your little wussy hissy-fit bout of pain? They know it's been months, and maybe some people are ok now? I just get so angry at the drug addicts clogging the system for people who really need to see the pain specialists. Some people are waiting for more than a year. I have waited about 6 months. I was just thinking about how bad the pain was in the beginning. And it's awful to think, but I know I would not have been able to live with that pain for this long. I was already thinking of ways to get myself re-admitted to the hospital by the time I found some meds which helped me. What did they do before modern medicine? I know I couldn't live a life like the one I was living. It was torture.

All in all, foot / ankle / leg is healing. It kind of reminds me of what it's like when you take your car in for a tune up, and you have to get used to all the new feelings and noises. My ankle cracks differently than it used to, and my muscles feel different too, where the break was. It's like having a new leg to get to know. Nerve pain is also changing again. I am way less sensitive now, and the burning feeling is coming back. It feels like when you come inside after playing in the snow.

My physio is going well, I am balancing on my tippy-toes, and I got to 20 seconds one day! The heel raises are hit or miss. Sometimes I am so sore from a work-out / physio the day earlier, that I can't lift myself up onto my tippy-toes on the bad side. The acute pain is pretty much gone, except for the odd time, and I have taken the ski-boot off (ie, it felt like I was wearing a ski boot on my bad side)! I can now walk down the stairs almost normally, and not need the handrail. I can walk on the flat road normally! Downhill is still an issue, but getting better. Knee to wall is consistently 4-5cm. I still have hit or miss days, but it still feels like I am making progress.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cinnamon Buns

Mmmm, one of my favorites. And another disaster story for you too. My first attempt was a sloppy pile of dough. But, I have learned it has not been my fault for half of these baking disasters - my oven SUCKS so bad. It will NOT bake anything dense. So, this recipe was right up my alley. Stand alone cinnamon buns. The oven conquered these ok. But I think I will divide the dough into three and not two sections next time. See recipe HERE. Her's look much nicer, and I tried the whole pencil thing, but I couldn't get a nice groove, and they all fell over while rising anyhow, so who cares. I'm sure they taste the same. And freeze well too! I think these might become a dangerous staple in this house.

See how they all fell over?

And my "glaze" was a little too thick, but did its job nonetheless:


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Chicken Vegetable Soup

I've never actually made soup before. I tried once. It ended up being risotto, which was ok, but I wanted soup. I tried again recently, and it worked (ie. I didn't add 1 cup of rice!). I made it up as I went along, but really, how complicated can a vegetable soup be? This turned out so well, I will definitely do it again. It was so flavourful, which surprised me. I didn't think I could out-do Campbell's.

Vegetable stock (1 litre)
Onion, white
Corn, canned
Chicken (I used shredded pieces from a hot BBQ chicken that you can get from the deli in a grocery store)
Soup Pasta (I used the cute alphabet ones)
Garlic (I used garlic powder)
Red Chili powder
(you could also add a can of diced tomato too, which could be nice)

Chop up all veggies and add to stock; cook over high heat. Add shredded chicken and soup pasta about 5-10 minutes before soup is done. I made some pre-mix biscuits too with some shredded cheese added to the dough. They were so delicious!

Sorry about the crappy photos. I hate the flash, and the sun sets here by 6pm, so dinner is never during daylight here...