Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Flowers {garden evolution}

No flowers in the garden this week. Yesterday I posted a photo of my nearly complete flower garden on Facebook. My friends loved it. I've realised that I haven't really been documenting the garden progress here on my blog. I think it's wanting it to be finished before I show it off. The in-between stages are not so  pretty, but I've decided to show you how far we've come. I'm about to put in an order for some spring bulbs and roses, so come spring that garden is going to look spectacular.
To give you some idea of the lie of the land before we started playing around with it, this was taken in January 2009. The orchard was smaller then, only 16 trees, so if you can imagine the orchard extending up to the fence at the right of this picture, my garden is sitting in front of that. The house site wasn't even there at this stage.

I always knew I wanted a flower picking garden. Rob was busy planning his vegetable garden which was going to sit below my flower garden between the orchard and the laundry hut. But I drew a plan of what I think of as my garden, some of the plants I chose may have changed (not sure what I was thinking about with the privet hedge), but the structure stayed the same. Whilst the plot only gently sloped, ideally I wanted my garden flat. After the driveway was put in, all the extra top soil got dumped over the future garden site. This was excellent, except it was following the slope of the land. Some of the positives of taking so long to build was that we'd been through a few winters. So we knew where the water drained through the block. Our garden was in one of the natural drains that led to the dam. So in winter it got quite boggy.
So in late 2009, after finding out we couldn't build the hut that year, we took our heavy hearts to the block, and we started digging. We dug down about a metre at the top end and moved it to the bottom to build it up. We left drains open underneath the 3 paths, and one along the back of the top bed. Sure we could have got a mini-excavator in and it would have happened in a day. But we were watching every dollar, and hard work never hurt anyone did it? There was something therapeutic about the digging and moving. We were at least doing something for our home.

Rob working hard, by now we had extended the orchard. The 5 week holiday we had booked that Christmas, thinking we'd be helping with the hut build, we spent digging. We'd take a radio, tea and lunch and spend the whole day there. You can see digging is very fashionable work. Maybe you're getting the scope of how much soil we moved?
Things slowed down for a little while but in spring 2010 we finally finished off those drains, the ag pipe draining through my garden and Rob's. We laid them in bluemetal, and then finally covered up those drains.
By now the hut had started, creating yet more top soil, again we thought the hut would be nearly finished so Rob had booked some long service leave to help out. Sadly the hut was only at the framing stage! Besides I'd burdened him with a 4 month old puppy which probably wouldn't have helped. He still headed to the hut, but spent his time moving the new soil into his garden. I would come down and do inspections.
Rob borrowed a rotovator and tilled the soil in both gardens. It did look neat, of course the pasture grass grew back, and will continue to do so until we mulch. This year for my birthday Rob gave me some timber to create the flower beds. We inherited some pavers for the paths, so he set to work making those beds.
This is where we're at as of last week. We need to finish off 2 beds, plant my bulbs and roses, mulch all of it and lay some gravel on the edges of the pavers.
I can't wait for spring, and to show you flowers every Friday from here. Now we can concentrate on Rob's garden. Then I think we both deserve a holiday that doesn't involve digging (particularly Rob)!
Thank you Rob, my garden is perfect.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Snap it {up close}


This weeks theme is up close. Being a botanist and married to another, we tend to look at plants up close. That's how we can tell them apart, and whilst I can appreciate a whole forest, or a particularly majestic or gnarled tree, I think the true beauty of plants is most appreciated up close.

I can take no credit for the following images. Rob loves to take macro photos of Tasmanian natives, and has an eye for finding something a little unusual up close. The following are just a selected few (from the 90 images he forwarded to me) and of the several thousand he has.

All images Rob Wiltshire

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday's Menu {cheat's ravioli}

How can it be the last week of March already?
This last week flew by, with my trip up to Brisbane, the weekend was upon us before we knew it. Poor Rob had a cold this week, so with the cold weather on the weekend a pot of soup and a casserole was in order.

This weeks menu:
Monday: After making a zillion spinach and ricotta triangles (Claudia Roden's recipe) for a Harmony Day lunch, I came home with the leftovers. We reheated them and made a Lebanese salad to match. I finally used the purslane I insisted we grow, it's nice and crunchy in salads. We froze the remaining triangles for an emergency meal some time.
Tuesday: Another salad with soft boiled eggs, prosciutto, Meredith Dairy Goat Cheese.
Wednesday: Our cheat's ravioli - see below for the recipe.
Thursday: Massaman Curry, whilst I was in Brisbane. I need to cook this one at home, I haven't eaten it before I don't think, if anyone has a favourite recipe for this curry please pass it on. Oh, and I couldn't resist the chocolate tart either.
Friday: Beef pho in the Canberra airport.
Saturday: Vegetable and barley soup.
Sunday: River Cottage Chicken and mushroom casserole with Cider. Best thing was there are enough leftovers to eat on pasta tonight after work and the gym.


The Hut Ravioli

As we ran through the supermarket the week before, we grabbed a packet of wonton wrappers from the refrigerated section.
Image from Supreme Quality Foods
We hadn't used these in a long time. But we had a faint memory of seeing Simon Bryant use them on the Cook and the Chef as ravioli instead of fresh pasta.
It was a week night, which means by the time we've been to the gym, collected our dogs from doggie day care (ie my parents place) and driven to the hut it was probably around 7. We decided to "make" ravioli for dinner. A week before I made a batch of Nigella's meatballs and frozen them for use in pasta and soups.

Nigella's meatballs

250 g pork, minced
250 g beef, minced (or we used 500g pork and veal mince)
1 eggs
2 tbsp parmesan, freshly grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
3 tbsp semolina, or breadcrumbs
1 pinches pepper
1 tsp salt

To make the meatballs, just put everything in a large bowl, and then, using your hands (if you wet them with a little water the mix doesn't stick as much), mix to combine, before shaping into small balls.

So I wrapped (a still frozen) meatball in between two wrappers (sealing the edge with a little water and squishing it out a little so the joins were not too thick).  Meanwhile Rob quickly fried a chopped onion and some garlic in a little olive oil before adding a bottle of tomato passata. We quickly boiled the ravioli then added them to the tomato sauce to finish off.

We served them with some dollops of ricotta cheese (left over from the triangles I'd made earlier), lots of chopped fresh basil and some grated parmesan.

They were good. I think we might have to try another filling this week. Any suggestions?

Friday, March 23, 2012


I'm sitting in the Canberra Airport waiting. I've eaten a dinner of steamed pork dumplings and a beef pho. My brain has been numbed by commercial television (in the background).
My visit was brief, flying to Brisbane yesterday afternoon for a work meeting this morning. Then home again.
Last night I ran across the carpark of my hotel to a DFO. I had 40 minutes for a quick shop (found a few gym tops and some clothes for Rob) then came back outside to dark skies and a tropical downpour. I ran across to the hotel but got quite wet.
So I thought I might as well go for a swim. The pool at the Novotel is on the roof and hangs a little over the edge. 20m long, I surprised myself with my freestyle technique. I only learnt to swim when I met Rob, he was horrified that I couldn't swim. Refreshed I had a Massaman curry and beer (and a chocolate tart) before tossing and turning all night. I'm looking forward to seeing my husband (even though he's got a bad cold), my dogs and the hut. Oh and my bed. Have a lovely weekend. I'm planning a quiet one, which is hardly different from normal!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Snap it {old}


Playing along again at Faith Hope & a whole lotta love.

I'm not being cheeky, I mean that the following photos are old, not my father or grandmother!
I should scan more of these images of my parents and their families.
These are of my father when he was around one, so they are over 60 years old.
My father was born prematurely, and apparently lived in hospital for quite some time, wrapped in cotton wool and olive oil (life before humidity cribs). Apparently my grandmother would go and visit him in hospital every day. One day her doctor seemed surprised that Dad was still there, apparently the nurses had taken quite a fancy to him, and were reluctant to let him leave!
So I'm sure his 1st birthday would have been quite a celebrated event.



Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Menu on the fly

In a rush this week- here are the photos. That's the main thing right?

Top Row: Rib eye steak, baked potato, Speckled Easter eggs, the best hot cross buns, chilli spare ribs, our basil.
Middle Row: Spinach and fetta triangles, fetta and spinach scrambled eggs, a White Lady, Smoked trout, rocket and red onion on rye, there's that hot cross bun again (we bought 2 dozen on the weekend)
Bottom Row: Salad, pancakes with stewed apple, spaghetti alla puttanesca, Italian sausages on puy lentils, fruit toast.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Hut tour

Recently a new online friend asked if I had any pictures of our finished hut on the blog.
I thought yes surely, I post photos on the blog all the time. But in reality I've teased you with parts of the hut but never taken you on the full tour (our hut is quite small so don't worry it won't take long!) I did do a quick version on Instagram, but I took these photos with Rob's DSLR.
The last full tour was exactly a year ago. The hut had just had the first undercoat of paint inside and it started to feel like it was close to finished. Officially at lock up stage, we still didn't have bathrooms, a kitchen, flooring or any finishing touches done. It was probably best that at the time we didn't know that it wouldn't be ready to occupy until late June!

But I can almost forget the annoyance of waiting. Almost.

Without further ado, welcome to the hut.


This is our front door, entering into our breezeway off the terrace.

Just a reminder of before and after, last year the timber cladding was not even on site, and the polished floor was kept covered with black plastic. The timber door in the picture to the right leads to our hot water cylinder, or more importantly Rob's beer brewing cupboard.


Once inside the breezeway, you would normally find a few simple coat hooks, some baskets for our shoes, a retro chair and a small myrtle table that Rob restored. However, the wardrobe for the spare room is still parked here while we work up the courage to dismantle it. The door as you can see leads to the living end of the hut.


If you were to turn around to the other end of the hut you can probably see our secret loft door up high. The dumping place for anything we don't need to see all the time.
The walls are clad in celery top pine, inside the hut we used China Wood oil to finish all the timber. The timber cladding has become so golden over the last 8 months, and will continue to darken. All our skirting, window and door trims are in myrtle.
Ok, if you were here in person I'd probably then take you into the living room end of the hut first. Visitors often comment on the spaciousness of the hut inside, after seeing how narrow it is from the outside, it's only 4m wide. The windows, cream walls and retro furniture all contribute to that I think. Rob and I (luckily) both dislike clutter so we keep the hut pretty spartan. Anyway, you walk down a short narrow space into our kitchen.


The living space is broken into three roughly even spaces. The myrtle window seat draws your gaze as you walk in to the big window at the end of the hut. But really the view is to the north side, along the long axis of the room. We chose double glazing for the windows and door in this end of the hut, which means we don't need blinds or curtains. We love that this means that the lines are kept clean. Originally the cathedral ceiling was to be timber clad too. But the budget didn't stretch that far. So plaster board it is. But you know what, I think we prefer it now. The ceiling soars and lifts the space rather than feeling closed in. The poor builder and plasterer were quite frightened when we chose our lights, those little white rectangles on the side (there are actually three of them, one is out of the frame). The "Surf" up lights are designed by Neil Poulton, and were quite a splurge for us, but the three lights  do light up the whole space so well. Frightening for the plasterer as he had to get our ceiling absolutely perfect as they would show up every flaw in the joins between boards. But we are so happy with them, the plasterer did do an excellent job.

The bench you can see is our main workspace in the kitchen, nearly 3m long and 800mm wide, we had our bench tops made to be 1m high, as we're both tall. Nine big drawers provide plenty of storage for crockery, plastics, and bakeware. But we'll swing around and have a look at the kitchen from the other direction.


The cabinetry and bench tops are solid celery top pine, most of which we purchased at an auction a few years earlier. It too is getting darker. The four drawers on this side of the bench are for cutlery, place mats, candles and serving platters, so that it's easy to set the table without heading into the kitchen.
To keep the clean lines in our kitchen we opted for a domestic oven and ceramic cook top. But splurged on a Parmco extraction fan (the little silver rectangle above the cook top), which works well, the fan is in the corner cupboard so it's not too noisy. Things we love here: the view from the kitchen sink, the little hidden knife drawer to the left of the oven, and the open wire baskets for our collection of copper Scanpan saucepans underneath. The watercolour of an olive branch was painted by a friend, and is the only artwork we currently have on the walls. We just can't bring ourselves to put anything else up on the walls yet. Ok onto the living area.

The Tas oak floorboards are covered with a soft golden rug. A legacy item from Rob's parents. We think it has silk in the pile as it is so soft, the dogs love lazing on it! The window seat is obviously the pride of our home, but the two Blackwood Fler Narvik lounge chairs are pretty special too. The two Fred Ward myrtle sideboards house our glassware, napkins and cake stands. We may have fallen into collecting mid-centry furniture by accident, but the style is perfect for the hut, with the pieces raised off the floor with the tapered legs extending the space.
If you were to sit on the window seat (which I highly recommend) you would then look back to the kitchen like this:

Our retro myrtle dining table faces the bifold door that opens out onto the terrace and overlooks the dam. Our collection (which has grown again but we need to recover them) of Blackwood Piper Tru-line chairs may be a little daggy, but they are comfortable. If you walk down the room and back into the breezeway you would then see this view down our hallway:


The mirror on the dresser in our room creates a perfect reflection, creating a feeling that the hall will go on. The long narrow windows provide light and the internal doors are all single lite glass doors so that light can flow from one side of the hut to the other. The polished concrete floor is great for our dirty dogs! The one techo item in our hut are the low sensor lights on the right hand side of the hall. These are fantastic at night when you are visiting the bathroom.
First room on the left is our guest bathroom:
The polished concrete flows right into our shower, with the best view of the dam and bush on the hill opposite (where the wedge tailed eagles soar).

The sink sits on floating bench of myrtle. We found this retro Blackwood framed mirror which is perfect for this room.

The spare room is the most unfinished room. It's yet to get a proper double bed (still on the look for a mid-century myrtle bed head) and the wardrobe in the breezeway needs to be moved in here (magically). I have actually sold the chest of drawers under the window, the one on the far wall matches all our other Fred Ward pieces, and we leave two of our dining chairs in here for the moment.

Our bathroom is the next along the hall, the same as the guest bathroom except for the shower over a bath. The view is pretty good here too. Rob's sisters gave him the round mirror for his birthday last year and it works perfectly here.


Last but not least is our bedroom. With a set of french doors that open out onto the terrace and a window that overlooks my flower garden and the orchard. Fred Ward features here too, one day we will replace the modern Tas oak bed with a mid-century style myrtle bed. I didn't take a photo in the opposite direction as the only building job left to do are the timber doors on our built in wardrobes. Hopefully we can tick that off this year. The two bedrooms have a wool plush pile carpet, called Velluto, which apparently is Italian for velvet, in a caramel colour.
So there you have it. A tour of our little home. Hope you have a lovely weekend.

Friday Flowers

Rob and I try to have lunch time dates together during the week.
One of our favourites is to pick up some lunch from either Jackman and McRoss or Devil's Kitchen for a takeaway burger, then head to the small park behind St Georges Church and sit in the sun on a park bench.
We visited this week on Tuesday, and afterwards took a photo of one of our favourite autumn flowers, the Japanese windflower (or Anemone hupehensis and Anemone x hybrida). They come in pink, pale pink and white. I need to get some for our hut garden.
Rob took this photo with the iPhone.

I'm hoping to come back later with another hut tour post.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Snap it: love

Playing along over at Faith, Hope and a whole lotta love.

This week's topic is love.
I love this place, my home.
I love the photographer, my husband.
I love my two crazy dogs, Nigella and Claudia.
I love the sunshine and perfect blue sky, in this photo.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A belated Monday's Menu

We're making the most of the late summer/early autumn produce at the moment.
I didn't mention that we visited a friend on Friday evening and she begged us to take tomatoes, pears, quinces, plums, prunes, zucchinis and grapes. We were happy to oblige.
Our basil plants are still going strong.

Monday: Pasta carbonara. A favourite recipe in our home.
Tuesday: Steak on the Weber with silverbeet, beans, leeks and mash.
Wednesday: Fresh super sweet corn (from another friend's garden) and tomato and meatball soup.
Thursday: Pesto risotto with Meredith's goat cheese (if you haven't tried that cheese, please do, you'll thank me).
Friday: Pan-fried tomatoes, zucchini, speck, onions with basil and parsley.
Saturday: Nigella's aromatic lamb shank stew (an old favourite recipe of ours that we hadn't cooked in years)
Sunday: Fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, a piece of Asiago cheese and Pigeon Hole rye bread (can you tell we visited Bottega Rotolo the day before?)

The sushi was a lunch date during the week from our favourite sushi shop R. Takagi.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A hut weekend

Sorry I realised half of my weeks menu is on the computer at work. So I'll delay Monday's menu until tomorrow.
We made the most of our weekend. This long weekend holds fond memories for us: four years ago we camped at our block. It was our first night spent there. We pitched a tent on where the hut is now, made a fire and cooked sausages and fell asleep. Nigella slept in the car cause I was worried she'd chase the wallabies and not come back!
We packed a lot into this weekend. We went shopping in Friday night. Looking at my winter wardrobe I realised it was a little sad. So despite not expecting much, I thought we should give Myer a go. To my surprise I found a pair of black boots, a pair of work pants and three knit tops, all were on sale. I also came home to a skirt in the mail I'd bought online. The boots were so comfortable and looked good, I checked online and found there was a tan colour in the same style. I thought about being sensible, but then rang the Sandler shop in Hobart and got them to hold my size (11 always sells out so fast). I put it to the vote on Instagram with a resounding affirmative. So then I came up with a good excuse to drag Rob into town, so I could try them on. I loved them so now don't need shoes for awhile.
Rob dug out a spot in the garden and planted our two avocado trees (bacon and Reed varieties). I cooked Nigella's aromatic lamb shank stew.
On Sunday we did a tip run, and headed up to Leslie Vale to order garden sleepers for the vegetable patch, and a trailer load of soil. Back at the hut we started recoating the vertical celerytop pine timber cladding. It took us all afternoon, but we actually ran out of the oil, with a 4m section on the back wall and one end of the hut to go. We were pretty tired so just had a light dinner of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil with rye bread.
Today I did a thorough hut clean and took a heap of photos to share here as a hut tour later this week. Rob moved and divided our strawberry patch, tidying up my flower beds as he did so. After I finished phaffing around inside I quickly potted up some spare lily bulbs and helped Rob plant three Corymbia citriodora trees.
Hope your weekend was just as satisfying.
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