Thursday, April 14, 2011

I just realised

...I've been putting off (for months!!) writing an email to my very good friend in Canberra because I am too embarrassed about being a stay at home mum. Too embarrassed about not having a 'real job' to tell her about. Too afraid of being boring because all I want to do is rave on about how awesome Pippin is (which is HUGELY AWESOME by the way).

Whoa. What is that all about?

I am going to write her an email about my TERRIFIC and PRODUCTIVE and ENJOYABLE life of baking, crocheting, homemaking, gardening and Pippin-wrangling right now.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Stuff I love: kitchen edition

In the spirit of celebrating what I already possess, rather than lusting after things that I want, here are three kitchen items that I totally adore and cannot live without:

My slow cooker. A gift from my parents a few years ago, it has come into its own since I have had Pippin. Seriously, there is no easier way to get dinner on the table. Also since I bought a kindle copy of Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cook Book my confidence in using it has greatly increased and I am much more adventurous.

This bread tin. An op shop find, it is simply the best tin ever. Nothing sticks to it; it makes an ideal loaf size-wise, shape-wise and burnished crust-wise. I don't know what it's made of but it is worth its weight in gold to me (and it only cost me about $4 or so).

Nigella's book How to Be a Domestic Goddess. We are serious Nigella fans here with all her cookbooks in pride of place on our already well-stocked shelves and HTBADG is my favourite baking book; I come back to it again and again.

What kitchen stuff do you love? Do share!



Friday, March 25, 2011

Things I know

Having my non-computer literate mum tell me to google something is hilarious.

If I had had any idea of the sheer volume of liquid poo that Pippin could produce I would have stuck with disposable nappies, damn it.

Crochet is the crack cocaine of the craft world. I am so addicted, I'm hooking it even as I write this post.

It is sheer bliss to not have the house surrounded by scaffolding, even though the renovations are still not quite finished.

Some days it is just absolutely necessary to make fairy cakes with pink icing and cherries on top.

Joining in with Shae for the week - see what other people know here!



Sunday, March 20, 2011

The green earth, say you?

...that is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day.

- Aragorn to Eomer of Rohan (JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sensationally Tasty No-Knead Sourdough Bread: a tutorial

I've been trying, over the last few weeks, to find a satisfying compromise that marries the deliciousness of sourdough with the convenience of not having to knead said damn dough. Because, when I need to fit in bread baking two to three times a week, it is just easier if I can spend two lots of ten minutes on it, rather than trying to get the timing right for mixing, letting it rest, kneading, rising, shaping, rising, baking.

(The eating part is not complicated, though.)

So, following round after round of extremely tasty semi-scientific experimentation, I feel confident in presenting you with a tutorial for no-knead sourdough bread that has a delicious chewy crust as well as fabulous tangy flavour.

And - it's easy. Feel free to follow along with my simple step by step instructions. I make baking fun!*

You will need:
150g ready to use sourdough starter
750g flour - one kind or a mixture (eg 500g bread flour, 250g wholemeal)
10g fine salt
500ml water
More flour (added after first rise)
22cm x 13 cm (9 in x 5 in) loaf tin, greased

Before we start: some notes about ingredients
I only have one sourdough starter, which is a rye one made using 1 part rye flour to 1.5 parts water. Based on my experience, though, you should be able to substitute an equal quantity of any other kind of sourdough starter if you don't have rye to hand.

I normally use about 40-50% bread flour, because it gives good lift and helps to support the heavier wholemeal (regular wheat or spelt) that I use to make up the rest of flour weight. You can use either bread flour or wholemeal flour to stiffen the dough after the first rise.

I don't measure the quantity of flour that I add after the first rise, either; I just chuck it in until the dough looks and feels right. This is something I've learned over the course of a year or more of bread-baking, so I can't really describe it apart from to say that the dough will be stiff, difficult to mix, not at all batter-like, and not sticky. I hope that helps.

Don't be astonished either if the dough just seems to keep sucking up the flour; for example, on really humid days it sometimes seems like it takes twice as much flour as on a drier day.

You may want to filter your tap water as well; I have read that chlorinated water can be death to sourdough. Mind you on occasion I have used unfiltered water and everything has turned out just fine.

Can we get started already?
But of course.

1. Measure your flour(s) into a large, non-metallic bowl (avoids the metal reacting with the acids in the sourdough). Add the salt and stir thoroughly to distribute.

2. Measure your starter and your water into a large jug and give it a good stir.

3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix thoroughly. You will end up with a shaggy sticky dough, like this:

4. First rise! Cover with cling wrap and leave to ferment for 12-15 hours at cool room temperature (too easy).

5. At the end of the first rise the dough should be bubbly and greatly increased in volume:

Give it a good stir to deflate it. It will be extremely sticky but much smoother than when you first mixed it.

6. Add in the extra flour, bit by bit, mixing well to incorporate each addition. You want to end up with a dough that is very stiff and hard to mix.

7. Even when stiff, this dough will be a bit softer than a normal dough, and consequently harder to shape, but it is also quite forgiving; so just scrape it out into your tin and smooth the top with a wet hand.

8. Second rise! Cover with cling wrap and let sit at cool room temperature for 2-3 hours.

The  dough might not seem to have risen very much (I would say mine normally rises about 30%? But that's just me eyeballing it) but fear not, there will be an awesome oven spring!

9. Half an hour before you will bake your bread, preheat the oven to 200C.

10. Stick the tin in the oven and bake for 60 minutes (if you have an oven that browns things readily, you may need to cover the top with foil before this time, so keep an eye on it). Check it by slipping it out of the tin; does it sound hollow on the bottom? If so, good, but no-knead breads are wetter than regular ones and take longer to cook. So stick a fine skewer into the thickest part; if it comes out with more than a hint of crumbs on it, pop the loaf back in the oven (with or without its tin) for another 10-15 minutes. I often end up cooking my loaves for about 80-85 minutes.

11. Allow to cool if you can before you enjoy your insanely tasty low-maintenance homemade sourdough bread!!



*with apologies to Strongbad.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Comfy Pants

The photo is not the best, but even so. I made them. Myself. From a sheet I got at an op-shop! It's the first item of clothing I've ever sewn!

They are comfy and AWESOME. I made them to be pyjama pants because I wasn't sure if I would do a good enough job to be able to wear them out of the house. I totally would wear them out though. So would my sister, but she is known for wearing pyjamas all over the place, frankly (hi little sis!).

The pattern is from Sew La Tea Do by Pip Lincolne of Meet Me At Mikes. I am going to be making more more more more comfy pants!!!

For more creative and hopefully equally comfy creative spaces pop in at Kootoyoo!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Struggling to understand

I am struggling (as many people are right now I am sure) to understand and make sense of the wave upon wave of natural disasters that have caused so much devastation in Australia, New Zealand and now Japan. I am so lucky; my home is safe and my family and friends are too. I am going about my daily business, cooking, reading, playing with Pippin, laughing, talking, blogging.

Yet there are people out there who are frightened, homeless, injured, in danger. I can barely imagine what they must be feeling.

If there is a loving God who created us, how can He let these things happen? If they must happen, why to person A rather than person B? What did I do to deserve the many blessings that I currently enjoy? What did someone else do to deserve the loss of their family, their home, their livelihood?

I left the Catholic church of my upbringing a long time ago; I have lived a number of years as an agnostic and even an atheist. Recently I have been trying to find a place for God in my life again. I would like a simple faith, if I could find one. But there doesn't seem to be anything simple about it, in the face of suffering of this magnitude. In fact it even seems more comforting to believe, as Tennant does, that the things that happen to us during our lifetimes are the result of pure chance and not in any way part of some grander design or controlled by any divine being.

Right now I don't know what to think, apart from just being deeply, deeply grateful for the fact that I am alive, safe, and drinking tea while Pippin sleeps upstairs and Tennant plays some questy-adventure game on his computer.



Tuesday, March 1, 2011


From the farmers' market last weekend.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

So this parenting thing... hard.

Pippin is nearly 16 months now and getting more independent and person-like by the day. I feel like I've hit my stride (to a certain extent) as a stay at home mum over the last month or two (yes, it really took that long... oh my) and I am lucky that Pippin is a bit of a creature of habit and seems to like the routine we have settled into, which looks something like this:

7am up and breastfeed
8am breakfast for all
8.30-10.30ish morning activities usually around the house but sometimes we run errands
11am lunch (I usually eat this with Pip, I am often hungry by this stage and it gets it out of the way so I don't have to waste precious Pippin-nap time on eating)
11.45ish breastfeed
12noon - 3pm (ish) Pippin sleeps and I do stuff (like blog, clean, crochet, sew, drink tea)
3.30pm afternoon snack
3.30-5.30pm afternoon activities, trip to the park or library, playgroup etc
6pm dinner (usually for us all - again it gets it out of the way so I can actually sit down later in the evening)
6.30pm bathtime
7pm breastfeed and then into bed

It looks very organised like that doesn't it, of course I leave out the bits where - on days that I am very tired or not feeling terrific - I spend time staring at Pip wondering what the heck to do to entertain him, or wishing that I could just do what I feel like instead of having to cater to his needs first.

On the other hand I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to spend this time with him. So blessed.

Yet simultaneously embarrassed... shouldn't I have a 'real job' and be doing something of 'real value'?

Oh, hang on. I AM. I just re-read this awesome post at Apron Strings to remind myself.

Because I DO have to keep reminding myself. It is so easy for me to minimise the work that I am doing here, now,  every minute that I am taking care of Pippin. Friends ask me what I've been up to, or new acquaintances ask me what I do, and I usually say 'oh, just taking care of Pippin' or 'oh, I'm just a stay at home mum.'

What I do is not 'just'. It is not 'merely'. It is not 'less worthy'.

I am actually raising up a human being and that is infinitely valuable work. It is NOT work that should be farmed out to others as a matter of course (although that 'village' that people always say is needed 'to raise a child' would sure come in handy sometimes).

Wow, I feel so defensive about this. I didn't really realise until I started writing it all down...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Things I know

c\_/ there is nothing cuter than the sound of Pippin babbling and singing to himself

c\_/ unreliable uncommunicative tradespeople are THE WORST

c\_/ reliable, trustworthy tradespeople are THE BEST. Also, unfortunately, rare

c\_/ I cannot wait to get all the scaffolding out of our front and back yards and get a kitchen garden in

c\_/ being premenstrual means all I want to do is shop shop shop

c\_/ knitting is boring compared with crochet

What do you know this week? See what other people are sharing at Shae's place!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Creative Space

Two words: Crocheting. Obsessively.

I taught myself to crochet last week with a bit of help from my mum, some handy pictures from Crochet Australia, this granny square tutorial and this heart pattern from Meet Me at Mikes!



(This is my first time playing at My Creative Space. For lots more creative inspiration, visit Kootoyoo!)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Turtle bars blankets and kittehs, oh my!

Well, here is the slab of turtle bar, baked and cooling, waiting to be sliced... We shared some with a friend after dinner. It was totally delicious, and the kind of rich that sneaks up on you and makes you feel rather queasy while at the same time contemplating a second piece.

 The blanket that I made... the fat quarters are from vintage sheets (thanks Fifties Housewives!) and the back is cut from a thrifted plain white double bed sheet.

The light in our bedroom is rather poor, so I had to use the flash on the camera... which did not disturb our determinedly-snoozing cat Beren, obviously.

Have a wonderful weekend -



Thursday, February 10, 2011

A quiet 'good afternoon'

It has been a long time since I felt I could fit in any blog posts here... It's not like I haven't been doing stuff; I've been doing lots of things: baking, making, running around after Pippin (now 15 months old and more amazing by the day), reading, cleaning... Oh and drinking tea of course (I've just started back on my tea blog as well).

I want to try and keep posting here though. I think it will be good for me, but I'm not quite sure what things will look like or the kind of content I'll be putting up. So please bear with me if things are a bit muddled, chaotic and jump around a bit as I strive to find my blogging groove again. That said, part of the reason I stopped posting for so long was because I felt like my little blog here didn't really compare with any of the other homemaking/baking/daily life blogs I read and enjoy and I felt discouraged and sad. This was part of a kind of 'my whole life sucks and is pointless' existential crisis that I went through around Christmas time in particular, I think. Plus the pressure that I was putting on myself to take pretty pictures and post LOTS wasn't very helpful.

But! As I have come to realise, I'm not in the blogging business; I write my blogs for fun and I don't really care how many people read this blog (although if you do, and you enjoy it, I'm very glad!)... So there will probably be fewer posts in general, and probably fewer pictures as well. If this means that Nice Life With a Cup of Tea is not to your taste that's ok and I will not be offended if you move on.

In the meantime... Here's a few things that have been inspiring me lately:

c\_/ this poem posted on Roots of She, a site I am coming to love more and more I must say.

c\_/ these Turtle Bars (I had never heard of them before, had you??) sound SO DELICIOUS, I am making them tomorrow!

c\_/ I got a sewing machine for Christmas (from my lovely family!!) and I made a blanket like this one - I'll post some pics soon. It is making me so happy every time I see it on our bed.