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The Scent of Spring

I’m loving lolling on my bed tonight, smelling jasmine on the breeze! My house rocks. 🙂

jasmine on the fence

close up of jasmine

lots of jasmine on the fence

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Mulberries: An Interlude

Guess who stepped in a mulberry?

cat's paw coloured purple

Princess.

Guess who left little purple paw prints all over the tiles?

woman holding a cat with a purple paw, kissing its head

Princess.

Guess who was highly unimpressed I was taking her photo while she had a purple-stained foot?

unimpressed-looking cat

Princess.

Yeah. Diva Princess. That’s who.

Just to show she’s not always messy and disgruntled…

tabby cat and tortoiseshell cat snuggling together on a bed

Princess is very sweet to little Fruity.

Awwwww.

Now if only the possums would hurry up and eat all the mulberries on the ground under the tree. We were just lucky this time that we didn’t end up with purple stains on the carpet. Fortunately only the bedrooms are carpeted. Phew! Now, keep up, possums!

P.S. My eco-friendly cat toy tip of the day? A twig from a poinciana tree. I was using one to encourage Fruity to follow me back inside and she loved it. I forgot though, that I used to play with Princess in the same way… she had to come join in! They took turns to bat the twig. So cute. Pou was very confused as to what they were doing. An ex-stray, Pou doesn’t really understand the concept of playing like that. But my point is – who said cat toys have to be expensive and made of plastic? These two get more fun out of a bendy twig than they ever have out of some weird plastic ball with a bell inside. Yay nature!

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Mulberries: The Beginning

I am attempting a semi-microblog. I don’t think I quite managed it! lol

Here are the mulberries Yankee Elv and Mr Teeny-bop picked. This is a ginormous sieve/colander. These berries filled two large containers.

mulberries in a big sieve

The mega mound of mulberries.

Day One of The Great Mulberry Harvest: Muffins

mulberry muffin cut in half on a plate

Check it out: the crumb isn't right and neither is the outside. But I like how the mulberries stain the muffin bluey purple!

I made muffins with 1.5 cups of mulberries. It was the first time I tried this recipe. I didn’t use any of the lemon stuff, and obviously, I used mulberries instead of blueberries. Unfortunately, I wasn’t overly thrilled. They came out a bit tough; the outside was too hard and chewy and the crumb inside wasn’t right. My friend Jho said they tasted like cardboard! Yankee Elv was slightly more diplomatic and just said they tasted a bit bland. Mr Teeny-bop didn’t like them, but he is super picky, so that was no surprise. I thought, however; they tasted reasonably good when warmed up and spread with some nuttelex. And it used 1.5 cups of mulberries, so that was a win!!

Day Two of The Great Mulberry Harvest: Giveaway

I gave a container of mulberries to Jho and her partner BB. Jho, as it turned out, didn’t like them (“They taste like semi-sweet small cherries!”), and she shared them around to other pepole in the office. BB will eat them with yoghurt, though. Yankee Elv took a much bigger container to work, where everyone picked at them all day long, quite happily.

Day Three of the Great Mulberry Harvest: Taking a Break!!

We still have a couple of cups of mulberries left in a container in the fridge and we’re still getting through the muffins too! I don’t want to make much more til we get through those, but I’m going to have to do something tomorrow or the berries will go bad.

I think we’ll probably pick the next lot of ripe ones off the bush (tree) tomorrow and get going on the next lot of things to make. Ideas include:

  • Mulberry nutbread: Yankee Elv makes a great one with zucchini and dried cranberries – I think the addition of mulberries would work quite well
  • Frozen mulberries: For later in the year when we want berries but the growing season is over
  • Mulberry cobbler: Yankee Elv introduced me to cobbler when we were living in the USA; we don’t have cobbler in Australia really. I love it.
  • Mulberry jam: I’ve never tried making jam before, and I’d like to try, but it seems like such a big job. If I have time, I’d definitely like to do this – especially cos it means using up berries now before they go bad, but not having to eat them incessantly for a month!
  • Mulberry syrup or stewed mulberries: To eat with pancakes, on icecream or with yoghurt.
  • Mulberry/hoisin marinade to eat with tofu
  • Mulberries in salad.
Anyone got other ideas?
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September Already?!

Whoa, so it has been ages since I’ve been here… I’ve been keeping an eye on things, but haven’t had a chance to post. It’s been a crazy year so far. Some major highs, like…

  • Buying (mortgaging) our first house, just 5 mins up the road from my good friend Jho’s place
  • Getting a new kitten (rescued off the road at 5wks old, poor wee thing, just in time for my birthday)

I hereby christen this kitten Fruit Tingle.

  • Ending a lease for the last time ever (no more renting!!)
  • Everyone going great guns at work and school
  • My health hitting a plateau (and since the only other way it could go was down, I’m taking plateau as a major win)
  • Yankee Elv getting dreadlocks, which she loves, and which killed my hands for the 50-odd hours it took me to do them for her

Yankee Elv loving her dreads (they were less than a week old at this point)

Yankee Elv's new hairdo gave me the perfect opportunity to rock a dreadstache.

  • Mr Teeny-bop getting taller than me and is starting to act less like an irritating teenager and more like a sensible verging-on-grown-up boy
  • Our old mate The Dyke Mike coming back down under… maybe for good again
  • My vegan-ness continues unabated
  • …and did I mention our new house? Quarter of an acre, baby!

Yankee Elv running around the lounge room on the day we got the keys.

But there have been some heavy lows too. The biggest and hardest hitting was Loodle and Old Man Fatso leaving us for greener pastures/another turn at the wheel. They were both very old and it was time… but it still sucked. It’s been since January for Fatso and since May for Loodle, but we still miss them and catch ourselves looking for them. That’s probably partly why I haven’t been here too much. I didn’t feel like I could write about it. Time helps, a bit.

Fatso and Loodle in times gone by.

Otherwise… Yankee Elv’s health has gone down as mine has improved plateaued and we’re not sure what’s going on with her yet. The car has been a never-ending money pit, but we have found an awesome mechanic and our new place is closer to Yankee Elv’s work, so there’s less driving (better for us and the planet!) and everything seems to be on track now. There’s an enormous possum in our ceiling who refuses to leave and is probably peeing all over everything up there as I type. I think his little minion possums come bring him food and water. He sounds like an overgrown wombat wandering around over our heads.

But in the grand scheme of things, life hasn’t been treating us too badly. Some days are diamonds, some… no, I’m not going to go there John Denver. Especially since I only realised the lyrics were ‘stones’ when I looked them up just now. I always thought he said ‘dogs’. Why did I think that?

Sorry, sidetracked.

So anyway, basically, I’m here to say I’m here. I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, I still read your comments and I still think of things to write here all the time. I just haven’t been able to get here to write anything. Mortgages involve a lot of paperwork. Paperwork = time-consuming.

I hope to get here more often from now on, I’ve got lots I want to say, but I’m going to be honest. No promises. There’s lots we want to do with the new house to get it just how we want it and the rest of my family are planning on applying for Aussie citizenship shortly, now they’re eligible. More paperwork; more time. But I’ll pop back again at least periodically, if not regularly… maybe I’ll do some shorter posts. Somewhere between the microblogging of Twitter and the super-epic-macroblogging I tend to do here.

So on that note, I leave you with one of the awesome surprises we found it our backyard (it was a stick when we moved in and suddenly, rapidly, ended up like this):

Mulberries

More mulberries (there are tonnes of them)

Peaches! I think it's a dwarf peach tree.

More to come…

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Growing Veges is Not My Forte

I think the title of this post says it all. If you don’t believe the title, have a look at the pictures.

itty bitty veges

These vegetables are itty bitty.

Clearly, not my forte.

I’m very good at starting gardens. I’m just not so great at finishing them. Well, actually, the finishing isn’t really a problem either. I guess you could say it’s the middle bit – the maintenance – that defies my abilities.

I created my vege garden in the one spot available in my little yard that didn’t already have an established garden. I prepared it beautifully, planted seeds, added fertiliser and watered diligently.

garden - new

My freshly prepared garden, all ready for me to plant in.

I was very excited to find seedlings coming up.

butternut pumpkin seedling

Butternut pumpkin seedling.

I especially liked the pumpkin plants – they grew so fast! I’m very much an instant gratification kind of girl, so rapidly-growing plants really appeal to me.

young butternut pumpkin plants

Young butternut pumpkin plants.

The problem with gardens is you can’t just spend a few weeks taking care of them and then leave them. Which is inevitably what happens with me. It’s what happened this time. I watered and weeded very well until work went crazy and I started working stupid hours (like until 2am sometimes). Then sleep came ahead of weeding and watering, so the plants had to fend for themselves.

This happens to me every time I start a garden. Without fail. I knew this going in, so I purposely planted them in a place where they would get rain and sunshine so they could technically be a bit self-sufficient, and clearly the weeds had no problem growing, so they would be ok.

In fact, for a while, my veges were ok.

Then the pumpkin vines started to get white splotches on them (which one of my colleagues tells me was likely mould – apparently this is a common issue Queensland pumpkin-growers face). All the little pumpkins (except one) rotted. Something started eating the sweet potato leaves. The carrots and spring onions got lost amongst the weeds. The only thing that seemed to be hanging on was the nasturtiums.

Overgrown garden.

Overgrown garden, with the butternut pumpkin vines in the foreground, as they begin their descent into death...

I pretty much gave it up as a bad job.

But several months after planting, I came across the little notations I’d optimistically made in my diary: ‘Carrot Harvest!’ and things like that. So I thought it wouldn’t hurt to dig the little suckers up and see what was under the ground.

When I got down to the garden, I thought maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all. The carrot tops were long and green and lovely. Pity about the carrots underneath.

stunted carrots

My stunted carrots - lovely long green tops, miniature roots.

Diva politely sat by the veges to give you a better idea of scale.

diva and veges

Diva showing the vegetables to scale.

Yes, the carrots are about 3cm (just over an inch) long.

Tiny carrots and pumpkin.

Tiny carrots and pumpkin.

The lone butternut pumpkin – looking gargantuan beside the carrots – was about 12cm (nearly 5 inches) long.

pumpkin

My tiny pumpkin.

I also planted about 20 spring onions. They all died, except for one that grew to about the size of a chive.

spring onion

No, it's not a chive. It's a spring onion. Yeah.

I didn’t pick it.

The sweet potatos are still going, but they are very chewed up. The nasturtiums are battling on (like Xena).

The thing about my gardening is that every time I do it, although I suck at it, I always suck a little bit less. I learn something every time. I will know, next time, to plant my pumpkins in a much airier place, so they don’t get too damp. I will know that green tops on the carrots doesn’t mean the roots are making much headway. I will know that spring onions hate me: they don’t grow in pots on the verandah for me, they don’t grow in the garden for me… but I am going to find a place where they do grow. Maybe in pots out in the open.

I’d be interested in anyone’s opinion on how to stop whatever it is eating my sweet potato vine. I think I can still salvage it. I saw a shiny, flea-sized bug on a leaf once, but otherwise I haven’t seen any bugs or caterpillars or anything on the leaves at all.

On the bright side, even though my vege gardening this time around was a fail, I still got to eat the pumpkin.

El pumpkino

Tasty little pumpkin.

Yankee Elv cut it open and it looked just like a normal butternut pumpkin, just tiny.

cut open pumpkin

The pumpkin looked normal inside, just miniscule.

So she made me butternut pumpkin chips. They were a delicious little snack!

chips

Tiny little chips from a tiny little pumpkin. (Roasted and sprinkled with salt.)

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Wassup?

I haven’t been steadily posting recently cos I’ve either been busy or tired. Life has been interfering with my life! So here’s a snapshot (in hindsight, it’s more like a full school photo) of what’s been happening in the house of ELV.

The house of ELV (speaking of) is being sold – we have to move elsewhere. We don’t know for sure whether they want us to see out the lease for a few more months, or leave ASAP (although they can’t force us), but already plent of debate about buy vs rent has ensued. We’ve decided to rent again for now. So the house-hunting begins. I will miss our friendly neighbour even if he does kill passionfriut vines and can’t understand most of what I say. I already miss the duck at the other neighbour’s house – I don’t know what happened to cute little Mishka. I will also miss the sounds of the chooks over the back clucking away in the mornings. *sigh* I hate moving.

My butternut pumpkin vines are growing rampantly and have already started to flower (so pretty!). If we can stay for a few more months, I may get a pumpkin or two. Otherwise, the new owner will be feasting on the fruits of my labour.

I’ve been telecommuting up a storm, which has proved more enjoyable than I anticipated. I really thought I’d miss the camraderie of the office, but due to a combination of many of my chatty friends moving to other jobs and the use of collaborative technology to talk to my remaining friends, it has been pretty cool. I get more work done and my lungs enjoy the lack of air conditioning. I’m only going into the office once this week. Think how little the impact of my transportation is this week!

I read No Impact Man‘s book. I liked it, although it did get a little preachy at times, but only momentarily, then it went back to interestingly philosophical and funnily anecdotal at the same time. It took me back to when I first started reading No Impact Man’s blog a couple of years ago. I loved it and it inspired me no end. It was nice to feel that zeal again. A note though: why was it ok to tell the world that his wife used menstrual cups, but not share what he used instead of toilet paper? I’m not one for secrecy about bodily functions anyway, although I respect his choice not to expose everything, but isn’t that a bit of a double standard? (I shan’t stir up controversy by discussing what this double standard may indicate…).

My buddy went to Singapore and all I got were these two metal ear diggers. I only got them on the proviso that I blogged about them! Yankee Elv and I have both tried them. Apparently I have pretty clean ears, so nothing much is happening for me, although I’ve heard good things from others. Yankee Elv doesn’t get dirty ears at all (we’re not sure why, perhaps something to do with a lack of inner ear hair due to deafness?). She mostly uses cotton tips to itch the ear in which she wears her hearing aid. For this purpose, she tells me, the ear digger is a poor substitute – she can’t think of anything other than a cotton tip that will do the job, as she doesn’t like the hard, scrape-y feeling of the ear digger. Can anyone think of an alternative?

I’ve been reducing the amount of soy milk I’m consuming, since I’ve increased my intake of soy yoghurt and soy cheese as I’ve struggled through my first six weeks of veganism. I’ve been supplementing my soy milk intake with oat milk, and thought I’d do a little unofficial research into which is the best. Expect an oat milk review post coming soon.

Something is eating my sweet potato leaves. I thought it was a caterpillar, but I only saw it on them once. For a while I saw these shiny little bugs about the size of large fleas, but they seemed to disappear a week or so ago. Now they’re just holey leaves. What has been munching them?

I’ve decided before we move house, I am going to take cuttings of rosemary, pink frangipanis and jade plant. All three are growing brilliantly here and I don’t want to lose them. The grapefruits aren’t in season or I’d plant some seeds – the grapefruit tree really is prolific in its bounty and produces the most enormous, spectacular, juicy fruit. Alas, I think I shan’t be around to see it this year. Does anyone know if you can grow native ginger from a cutting? I’m sure we have some of that somewhere too…

I’m looking for a copy of Sharon Astyk’s Depletion and Abundance at the library as I’ve heard it’s good. I used to read her blog, but found it too heavy for my short internet attention span. I think I will like it better in book form. Unless I know the author or have read the book already, I try to get all my books from the library. What’s the point of wasting resources and space with a bazillion books you’re only going to read once? I like the books on my shelves to be old friends.

I’ve been trying hard to be a good vegan, and I think I’m mostly succeeding, but I haven’t always been able to keep a cheery face on. Now, you might think that a cheery face about veganism isn’t necessary, but I think it is when you’re talking about it with non-vegans. As a vegetarian, I always present the face of ‘gosh, I am supportive of everyone’s choices, and if you want to eat meat, that’s your right – but wow, vegetarianism is easy, tasty, fun, healthy, good for the environment… wow, it’s just so great!’. Yeah, that’s quite a face. I better hope the wind doesn’t change. However, I guess I didn’t have as many people to talk with when I first went veg, as opposed to now, when all my co-workers know and ask me how it’s going. They are all very supportive, but I find it hard to publicly keep my chin up on a day when I’m really missing cheese or chocolate – especially since these things are often to be found in our office! I think they all think I’m a bit of a fringey, fanatic weirdo – in a nice way, of course. Telecommuting has helped since I’m not around those foods so much, and so has Lindt Lindor’s 70% dark chocolate (I know it’s not Fair Trade, but one step at a time)… but still, I find myself feeling guilty over my inability to be perky, sunshiny vegan at work. Breaking the dairy addiction is hard – much harder than giving up meat was! Sometimes I think it’s too hard and I’m being mean to myself (after all, isn’t life about experiences? I like my experiences to be as pleasant as I can make them). I think maybe I could just get dairy sparingly, from a nice organic farm… but then I think of the baby cows, especially the bobby calves, and their poor mamas! I think the guilt I’d feel over that would surpass any nice feelings the cheese/chocolate/ice-cream gave me. And so I stick with it. Soldier on, you know. Codral hit the nail on the head with that one.

Yankee Elv and I went to the West End markets on Saturday. We missed out on Dagwood Dogs from Ykillamoocow, to our surprise. They normally start cooking them at 10am and this week they started at 7am, bowing to popular demand. Not my demand, I like a sleep-in! I got a pumpkin/barley roll (kind of like a vegan sausage roll, but one that isn’t trying to taste like herbed, minced animal bits. It was a tasty breakfast with the home-made tamarind sauce and the homestyle lemonade we bought. Plus I had a few of Yankee Elv’s Greek honey puffs for dessert, and a vegan melting moment (passionfruit cream, from The Bakery V stall). We also tried Hibiscus juice (gorgeous, tasted similar to sweetened cranberry juice), tapenade, local honey (also not vegan, I knooooow), pineapple chunks and more juice. We were quite restrained really. We got lots of stuff, including some things I haven’t tried before (parsnips and fresh olives, like, right off the tree kind of fresh). I also got a couple of plantains, which I think I’m going to use in a curry, plus lots of our usual kinds of veges/fruits. I loved going to the counter and paying tiny amounts; I paid 75 cents for the two most enormous carrots ever. I did not like going within a five stall radius of the feral seafood stall. We mightn’t eat fish, but Yankee Elv and I both grew up around seafood and I’m sorry, but if it smells like that then you do not want to be putting it in your body. Ew. We wound up the morning with a visit to Reverse Garbage, but didn’t buy anything. It’s fun just to look and imagine.

Only two of my spring onions have lived and they are tiny – I think they drowned in their wet little corner. From one extreme to another with them! I’ll try again at the new place. I can’t tell my carrots from the weeds, so I guess the new owner will be in for a surprise eventually…

The new Clem 7 tunnel is brilliantly fast, but apparently has tonnes (literally) more pollution that was originally estimated. I don’t know that the two air sucker towers (I can’t remember what they’re called! One is Jacaranda purple and the other is Poinciana red) are doing their job.

jacaranda

One of the Clem 7 air sucker tower things is the colour of the flowers on the Jacaranda trees.

Motorists have been advised not to wind down their windows in the tunnel because the pollution is so bad. We found this out after we spent 25 mins in a traffic jam in there, with the windows down cos our car has no air conditioning. This is why I like buses. The tunnel was very zippy outside of peak hours though, taking about 4 mins from end to end.

I’ve just remembered I haven’t hung out the wet sheets and blankets I washed, which made me think of the clothes line, which made me remember that all potential new houses must have a place for an under-the-house line. The list of requirements seems to be mounting.

And I have also realised that I’ve written a tonne! Clearly I needed a post like this. I started on the oat milk review yesterday and it just seemed to drag and things kept distracting me… sometimes I guess you need to just let it all flow out higgledy-piggledy.

Speaking of pigs (well, piggledy, close enough) – look!

edgar alan pig

It's Edgar Alan Pig from Edgar's Mission! He's so cute!

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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