Monday, October 31, 2011

Sprouting!

I had been thinking about trying sprouting after I read about the benefits in Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and Diet Dictocrats, but I hadn't got around to doing anything about it, until I saw a few posts on Craving Fresh, in which Emma raved about how easy and yummy they were.

I bought a little kit from the Nanango Markets, you don't have to get a kit, I've seen some other posts with some great simple systems (here and here), but I liked the idea of this kit and it was only $15.  I also bought some seeds to sprout, I like to support local stalls.

Anyway, the kit is a glass jar with a plastic lid that has drainage holes and a little stand so you can lean it facing downwards to encourage drainage.  For each of the seeds I soaked them first (overnight for the large ones and a few hours for the small ones) and rinsed them twice a day until they were big enough to eat, then put them in the fridge and started a new batch.

soaking the chick peas overnight

waiting for them to sprout
So far I have tried alfalfa, chick peas, mung beans, and a mix of wheat, adzuki and mung beans that I got from a health food store in Gympie.  The funnest part is watching the sprouts develop, its like having a window into the secret world of seeds that you normally don't get to see as they are underground and out of sight.  I have found the alfalfa was the easiest and yummy on crackers with homemade cream cheese.  I've continued to sprout alfalfa for salads and sandwiches and it is by far my favourite.

The chickpeas are very tasty too, but went a bit smelly, I only have time to rinse them twice a day and I think they needed more rinsing in summer.  The mung beans were nice too, but took longer to develop to eating size and then they filled up my little jar so quickly.  They are good raw as well as tossed into stirfries or steamed veges.  The wheat/adzuki/mung bean mix was ok, but the adzuki beans take longer to sprout and I wasn't too keen on the wheat - it forms 3 roots and looks like a little bug!  I think I prefer to sprout single seeds/beans.  I'm not sure how they will go in our humid summer weather, so I will just have to keep trying and see what happens.  I might have to leave the chickpeas for winter though, they are very tasty, so I'd like to be able to sprout them successfully.

the alfalfa sprouts were yummy on crackers with homemade cream cheese
the mung beans after soaking
What do you sprout?



More sprouting progress here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Simple Wedding - part 4

For the start of the story, see A simple wedding in several partsA simple wedding part 2 and A simple wedding part 3.

THE RECEPTION DECORATIONS
For the reception we hired chairs, chair covers and sashes, table cloths and runners and a small cake table from Bundaberg Party Hire. The colour options were fairly limited, so I chose white and gold to match the beach theme. Everything else we needed was in the hall already. The hired gear was delivered on the Friday afternoon when we had the keys for the hall. My husband, my cousin and I set up all the tables and put the covers on the chairs, but when it came to them helping me to tie the sashes, it became clear that we needed more females to help, so we left that for my mum and aunties to finish (boys can’t tie neat bows! but are very good at tying things onto the back of the ute).

On the day of the wedding we spent the morning decorating the hall and as my family had nothing else to do, being on holiday at the beach, they all came to help. My parents-in-law had spent months picking up nice shells from the beach and had presented me with a huge bucket of washed shells. I spread these out over the tables and all around the hall. The only other thing on each of the four the tables were three candles from a cheap shop (with small shells on them) sitting on small tiles (to keep them off the tablecloths). The tiles were free from a tile shop. I had gone in there intending to buy about 20 small tiles, but they didn’t have any and suggested that I take some of the sample tiles from out the back, but they were all huge. Finally I decided on two sand coloured tiles and brought them home for my husband to kindly cut into 9 smaller tiles.


THE FOOD
We did have dreams of lovely fresh local produce, but it all became too difficult and we ended up booking in a company called Golden Roast, that came out and did a spit roast with veges, preceded by nibbles and followed by various deserts. This seemed to suit most people. We also paid a local family (mum and two teenagers) to come and serve the food and do the dishes. They did a wonderful job and kept the stress levels low for everyone.

THE DRINKS
The main worry here was that we wouldn’t buy enough! In the end we got 8 cartons of beer (various Cascade, Moteiths etc) and a box of red wine, a box of white wine and a box of sparkling wine. We were ok with choosing the beer, but had no idea when it came to the wine. Lucky for us we found a helpful shop attendant at Dan Murphies and he helped us to choose something nice but not too expensive. We had plenty left over, so we must have got about the right amount! I'm still using up the wine in cooking as we don't drink it much.

THE SPEECHES
Again, nothing complicated. My husband and I stood up and thanked everyone for coming. For some reason both my parents wanted to say something, so they had a chance to each make a nice speech welcoming my husband etc, then my father-in-law made a quick speech, and we moved on to desert. No need for an MC!

THE CAKE
My mother-in-law offered to make the cake and we thought that would be lovely (have you seen the price of wedding cakes these days? They cost more than my dress!). The best part was that she did a number of trials for us to sample before settling on the final recipe. We requested a chocolate cake and she started with a very complicated recipe and then ended up with a lovely simple one. We covered the cake with Guylian chocolate shells. I think it looked rather nice (and it tasted great!).


THE HONEYMOON
Well this is the sad part, because our guests had booked to stay at the beach for a few days after the wedding, we wanted to stay also to see the people that we hardly ever get to see, rather than take off on a honeymoon. So we still haven’t been on an official honeymoon, but we’ll get there eventually!

So that is a summary of our simple wedding. I hope it will give you some ideas for your own simple wedding or event.

A simple wedding in several parts - location, guest list and invitations, accommodation

A simple wedding part 2 - the dress and flowers

A simple wedding part 3 - the ceremony

Did you have a simple wedding?  Any tips?  Share your own simple wedding post here

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Simple Wedding - part 3

See Part 1 for the start of the story, and then Part 2.....

THE CEREMONY
We had the ceremony on the beach at Woodgate. We hired plastic chairs for the beach and bought a pair of white peace flags and a beach style “isle runner” (both ordered from the net, the runner was supposed to be hemp, but turned out to be plastic). We probably could have done more to decorate the ceremony, but the beach was a beautiful backdrop, I just didn't want to have to buy or hire heaps of stuff and then have to deal with returning/owning it afterwards!


My husband and I walked down to the beach and down the isle together, with Elvis Priestley’s “Love me Tender” playing in the background. When we made that decision to walk down the isle together, I was worried that my dad would be offended and I asked mum what she thought. She said that they had done the same thing (it was the 70s after all!), so we could proceed without any worries! I think some people may have thought it was a bit odd, but it felt right for us, seeing as we already lived together, it seemed a bit bazaar for my dad to “give me away”.

Our celebrant was George Dean, a Woodgate local. We met him a few times before the ceremony and he was very professional. He had also been married for a long time himself, so we trusted him to present a nice ceremony. We were very pleased with his work. He provided his own sound system and made a nice speech before we read the standard vows. Instead of writing our own vows, George suggested that we write “special words” to each other to describe the reasons why we each wanted to get married. We wrote these and emailed them to George separately, so that when he read them out on the day it was the first time we’d heard them.

Many people commented that this was a nice touch.

THE RINGS
I was happy to just have my engagement ring as my wedding rig, that's what my mum does, so I'm not used to seeing two rings, but my husband wanted us to both have wedding bands, so we bought plain gold bands. I wasn't sure if he would want to wear his, not really being a jewellery kind of man and as a tradesman it can be a safety hazard if it gets hooked up on anything. In the end we bought a nice thick gold chain and he wears it around his neck all the time, more than I wear mine, so that's been really nice.

THE PHOTOGRAPHY
We were very very lucky that a good friend of ours had just taken an interest in photography and bought himself a huge range of professional gear. We asked him if he could do our photos. He took some lovely photos during the ceremony and also videoed it for us, then some more personal shots after the ceremony and lots of group shots at the reception. After the wedding he gave us a dvd with all the photos (and made dvds for our parents and friends) and then made the video into a dvd. I used the photos to create a photobook through clickonprint.com.au because I liked their software (there are plenty of other options) and we gave copies of the books to our parents as mementos.


THE CARS
Haha, just kidding! We didn’t have any cars, we just walked across the road to the ceremony together J

THE PRESENTS
We put on the invitations that we didn’t need presents as everyone was travelling so far to be at the ceremony. Even so, most people brought something with them, which was a lovely surprise. I was worried that we would get lots of impractical and pointless presents, but we have some very intelligent and practical friends and family who all gave us useful items like towels, sheets, kitchen items, books, a magazine subscription and money (of which you can never have too much or too many).

A simple wedding in several parts - location, guest list and invitations, accommodation

A simple wedding part 2 - the dress and flowers

A simple wedding part 4 - the reception

Did you have a simple wedding?  Any tips?  Share your own simple wedding post here 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Buying a second hand tractor

I had been resisting buying a tractor for a while, it just seemed like extra hassle and lots of money, but when we moved to our property at Nanango, it became clear that we were going to need one.  We didn't know much about tractors, so we decided to just look for a cheap one secondhand and have a go.  Luckily for us we found one advertised in the local paper for $6000 (that's very cheap compared to a new one).  Its was a little Kubota 1500L.  We went and had a look at it and couldn't see anything wrong with it, so we bought it before someone else could snap up our good deal.  We had it delivered to our property on the back of a tow truck.



I wouldn't recommend a second-hand tractor to anyone who doesn't have at least a little knowledge of engines.  If you're someone who services your own car, you'll probably be ok with a tractor, otherwise, you may find yourself paying that much to get things fixed you should have just got a new one with a warranty.  Fortunately Pete does service his own car and used to race speedway cars, so he knows his way around an engine (as well as all the other important bits of the tractor).  This has been very useful as we have had a few problems with the little tractor.  Firstly it was leaking water and Pete was worried that the block was cracked (which means you may as well get a new one), but luckily a dose of "chemiweld" fixed that!  We've also had trouble buying spare parts.

The main problem is that the tractor is a "grey market" tractor.  That means its a second-hand imported refurbished tractor!  It would have been imported from Japan as a second-hand tractor and refurbished before being sold to the owner before us.  This means that its a model that's not usually sold new in Australia, so the Kubota dealers don't like to support it with spare parts.  Luckily my husband has been clever enough to find appropriate parts so far, and found that our Toyota Hilux fuel filter fits the tractor, very convenient!  But it is something to be aware of when buying second hand, as it may take some effort to find the right parts.

The tractor has been incredibly useful in clearing our property.  It came with a small slasher and front bucket, and Pete has spent hours slashing the paddocks (and using the bucket to push down wattle sapplings).  The bucket itself has been useful for moving things, from firewood to steer guts when the butcher was here!  Being a tradesman, my husband couldn't resist turning it into a kind of forklift by added bolt-on tynes to the bucket.  He uses this to lift the cattle crate onto the back of the ute.  We have even used the tractor to move a Chev motor from the back of the ute and into the shed, and to pull out large clumps of unwanted grass.

Even so, the tractor is a little small for our property.  As its a steep and rocky block, the short wheel base and 2-wheel drive can make for a rocky ride.  There's no power-steering, so sometimes the steering wheel just moves with the front wheels and it can be difficult to hold on, let alone steer the tractor (I only drive it at VERY slow pace).  Ideally we would like to get something slightly larger and with 4 wheel drive for better stability.  It was a good idea to start with the cheap tractor though, now we know more about how to drive it and what to look for in the next one, we feel like we've already got good value from it, so we're not too precious about it.  We should still get a decent price for this one when its time to resell it, and the work that its achieved has been good value.

For more about the bigger tractor that we bought for Cheslyn Rise, see here.

Read more about how we are improving our property here.

Have you bought a tractor for a small property?  Any advice?

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Simple Wedding - part 2

See Part 1 for the start of the story.....

THE DRESS
About 6 months before the wedding I persuaded my husband to come into Toowoomba to look at some dresses. I said in my previous post that neither of us were very aware of what was “supposed” to be done at weddings, and this included the stupid rule about husbands-to-be not seeing the dress. For goodness sakes, we live in the same tiny house, how was I going to hide it from him!? We couldn’t work out why all the wedding shop attendants were getting so funny about him being there until I mentioned it to a lady at work and found out the reason!

Anyway, I wasn’t terribly keen on wearing a white dress, nor anything overly sequined or lacy. As usual, I was going for simple, but that seemed difficult to explain. I tried on a few white ones and they felt totally wrong. Finally one of the attendants actually listened to me and suggested a nice simple bridesmaid dress. The dress was made to order, so I was able to chose the size and colour. I chose green and cream to match the colours of the tussock grass on the sand dunes around the beach. Even better, it was a third of the price of the white ones I tried on, at under $300.

The dress arrived in a few months and fitted perfectly (lucky because I couldn't find a dress-maker!), but was far too long. I guess it was designed to be worn with high heels. I had no intention of wearing high heels on the beach or at the reception (why torture myself?). I had a pair of gold sandals that I picked up a garage sale for $10, that I thought would be fine. Anyway, the dress needed to be taken up so that it didn’t drag in the sand. Fortunately my mother-in-law sews and has an overlocker, so we headed up to the beach for a visit and she helped me pin the hem to get the right length (anyone who has had their husband try to help will know that most men don’t know how to use pins and its more trouble that its worth). We were both scared to ruin the dress, so I had to be the brave one to cut the excess material from the hem, she then got me started on the overlocker (fortunately on an offcut) and it was a total disaster, so she took over and did a great job with the fiddly thin material. I then went home and took up each of the petticoats with my own sewing machine to suit the final length.

THE GROOM’S OUTFIT
It didn’t seem right for my groom to wear a suit when I had chosen to wear a green dress. He decided on shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, very beach-appropriate! We left this shopping expedition until a few weeks before the wedding so that the summer clothes would be in the shops. What a mission! After looking at every shirt and shorts option in every menswear shop in two west Brisbane shopping centres, we finally found a suitable shirt and shorts (I only had to look in 5-6 shops to find my outfit!!). In hindsight it would have been easier to choose his outfit first and then matched mine, as I could have chosen any colour, oh well, we found something nice in the end.

THE FLOWERS
I asked my mother-in-law if I could have some flowers from her garden for the ceremony. She grows lovely roses, so I was hoping that some of them would be ready, but I was happy to take whatever was available. I would have loved a bouquet of Australian wild flowers, but it was a bad time of year for all the pretty ones in this area. Anyway, I was lucky to get a lovely bunch of roses, which we wrapped in gold ribbon.

THE HAIR AND JEWELLERY
I was growing my hair long anyway, so I just decided to wear it down. No need for a hairdresser to help with that! I very rarely wear makeup these days, but I bought some for the occasion and wore a little bit around my eyes. I hate the feeling of it, especially on a hot day, so I kept it to a minimum. I wore pearl earrings that my husband gave me ages ago and a pearl necklace made for me by my neighbour at the time when I complained to her that I had no idea what necklace to wear with the dress!

A simple wedding in several parts - location, guest list and invitations, accommodation

A simple wedding part 3 - the ceremony

A simple wedding part 4 - the reception

Did you have a simple wedding?  Any tips?  Share your own simple wedding post here.

Share your own simple wedding posts

I've had a few comments on my first post about our simple wedding with people telling me about their own simple weddings, so I thought it would be fun to have a linking post.  You can write a post on your own blog about your simple wedding (and don't be stingy with the photos!) and then link it to this post and link this post to your post and then everyone can have a look and it might give some other people some nice simple wedding ideas.  I'm not going to make up any rules here, if you thought your wedding was simple, then it was, that's fine with me, everyone has their own interpretation, that's what makes it such a lovely day.  So go ahead and leave your link in the comments.

this is my favourite wedding photo


A simple wedding in several parts - location, guest list and invitations, accommodation

A simple wedding part 2 - the dress and flowers

A simple wedding part 3 - the ceremony

A simple wedding part 4 - the reception

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Do fish eat seasick tablets?

We set of from Rainbow Beach's Carlo Point Marina at dawn on a deep sea fishing charter.  I had decided not to take the seasick tablets that I bought because I had just noticed that they contained caffeine (and caffeine and me don't agree).  I was feeling fine until we got out to sea and stopped moving (well stopped moving forwards and started moving up and down instead!).  I don't know if it was the smell of the squid bait or the diesel fumes, but I soon started to feel queasier and queasier.  I decided that the seasick tablets might have been a good idea, so I took two, but it was too late, and I lost my breakfast and no doubt also the seasick tablets over the side of the boat.  I felt better after that though!  I didn't eat anything for the rest of the day and had no further trouble with seasickness, however I did wonder what happened to the tablets, did the fish eat them?  And what does caffeine do to fish?


After that initial drama, we got on with some fishing!  I managed to catch two snapper and a few others that had to go back.  My husband caught at least seven keepers, plus a huge tuna.  When we got off the boat, we loaded all the fish into our esky and covered them with ice.

The massive tuna
Esky full of fish (note we had to cut the tuna's tail to fit it in!)
The hard work came the next day when we got to work scaling and gutting all the fish.  Actually, it was much like processing chickens, just scaling instead of plucking!  The smaller fish went into the freezer whole, but we cut the tuna into steaks.  We got 4 kg of steaks and another kg of scraps that I'll use for soup.  I cooked up the skeleton to make 5L of fish stock.  We dropped all the guts in our weed/manure tea barrel to make our version of fish emulsion!  As usual, nothing was wasted!

This was good practice as our next project is aqauponics!  This is a cross between hydroponics and aquaculture, where the fish waste feeds the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish.  We has ordered a small kit from Practical Aquaponics, and it will arrive soon.  Now we just have to organise a greenhouse and some little fishies.......

Do you get seasick?  Any good at fishing?  Have you tried aquaponics?

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Simple Wedding - in several parts


The 23rd of October is our first wedding anniversary. We had a simple wedding (as I’m sure you would expect of me by now), which we mostly planned and paid for ourselves. The months immediately before our wedding were incredibly busy and stressful, and afterwards I couldn’t imagine that I would forget all the details, but thinking back now, with so much having happened in the meantime, its getting a little fuzzy. I’d like to dedicate October to a series of posts about our wedding with some tips for others who want to keep things simple.

It was probably lucky for us that we hadn’t been to many conventional weddings between us. This meant that we didn’t have a good idea of how things were “supposed” to be done and were very free to create a day that suited us perfectly. We were also lucky not to have meddling relatives that wanted to “help”, most of the planning was left to us. If you are a traditionalist, you may be horrified by all the rules we broke, but I do hope it will encourage others to think outside what is expected or commonly done and do whatever makes you comfortable.

THE LOCATION
We took months and months to start planning because we couldn’t decide on the perfect location. We thought about having the wedding at Woodgate Beach, were my parents-in-law live, but didn’t want to make them feel that we were imposing on them. We thought about having it at our property, but the thought of hiring porta-loos and trying to seat everyone so they didn’t have to stare out at our neighbour’s ugly barren horse yard was just too much! We almost gave up and organised a registry wedding followed by a dinner. Finally we came back to the beach idea. We both LOVE the beach and we decided that we could make it work.

With the location decided we could finally set a date and start inviting people. We decided to have the wedding ceremony on the beach in the afternoon (although we would have loved a dawn ceremony, we realised it would be difficult for some of our guests to get there on time) followed by dinner at the community hall in Woodgate. All I had to do then was look up the tide times to find suitable weekends and find out when the hall was free. The 23rd of October worked out to be perfect on both counts, so the date was set.

The hall hire was only about $200 for the Friday afternoon until the Sunday morning. I’ve heard that its gone up a bit since, but that’s still very cheap! That included crockery, cutlery, tables and chairs.

THE GUEST LIST AND INVITATIONS
We wanted to keep things simple and small, which was made easy by neither of us coming from huge families or having huge circles of friends. Neither of us particularly wanted to invite anyone from work. We were able to keep the guest list to 30 people, which was quite manageable.

We decided that we didn’t want any bridesmaids or goomsmen (or any flower girls or page boys for that matter!), but we did ask two good friends to be our witnesses for the official part of the ceremony. As the ceremony was on the beach, Cheryl the Kelpie was able to come too.

I wasn’t interested in spending time and money on fiddly invitations, so I just drew something up in ms word with a nice photo of Cheryl on the beach and all the details. I emailed that to everyone on the list who had email, and only had to print and post 5-6 invitations. Most people continued to RSVP and communicate by email, which made things even easier.

ACCOMMODATION
As my family were all travelling from NZ to the wedding, we decided to hire some holiday houses for everyone to stay in, to keep down costs as so many had to buy air fares and pay for hire cars etc. We chose three houses on The Esplanade (across the road from the beach) and booked them for the week. Most people chose to stay for a few extra days and enjoyed the little beach town and the nearby city of Bundaberg. My husband and I stayed in the houses for a few days and booked our own apartment for the night before and the night of the wedding, so that we could get ready in privacy (yes, I know we weren’t supposed to get ready together!).

A simple wedding part 2 - the dress and flowers

A simple wedding part 3 - the ceremony

A simple wedding part 4 - the reception

Did you plan or attend a simple wedding?  What made it special?  Share your own simple wedding post here.

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