Saturday, August 27, 2011

Oven love

The gloves are off!

It's always after something breaks that you start to really appreciate it's operational qualities! Such is the story with our electric wall oven recently. It decided to stop working a few weeks ago, after baking 4 years good service. We pretended the elves would visit and magically fix it in our sleep, but after a few days it became apparent this strategy wasn't going to work.

Decision time...we had the option to:

1. Repair it
2. Buy a new wall oven
3. Buy a compact bench oven for portability

We wanted to repair it, but weren't sure how much it would cost. After a few calls to local electricians who all said they didn't fix domestic ovens, it looked like we weren't going to find out either. Time to consider options two and three.

So we went looking and found new wall ovens were going to cost over $600 (AUD) for a basic model. Then we looked at small portable ovens perfect for caravans, but quickly realised they didn't have enough head height. There's no-way I was going to fit my high loaves in there. Oh for the love of a freshly baked sourdough loaf!!

Thankfully, we decided to use this oven-less time to look at new ways of cooking in the kitchen.

Multi tiered steamer and electric frying pan

We used our steamer/frying-pan to cook all but the carrots for one meal - sausages frying down the bottom, with broccoli and corn steaming above. I've probably never appreciated the value of this multi tiered frying pan until the oven died. It uses less electricity than cooking in the oven and stove-top at the same time. I even managed to steam a cake and although it was nice, it lacked the texture I love with oven baked cakes. So we discovered steaming cakes were probably left off the menu permanently, as I have to be wooed by my food in order to apply the effort.

As time rolled by though, we were beginning to miss all the goodies I use to bake. I even began to feel quite restless as my routine was out. I didn't realise how much kneading bread by hand gave me time to meditate. I was doing it automatically so I didn't notice it until my oven broke. I also realised how many plastic-wrapped, convenience foods were making it into the house again. Not take-away food, just more packets of bought cake, bread, biscuits and snack foods. We tried to make these snack foods as healthy as possible, like dried fruit and rice crackers - but after two weeks passed, we had totally fallen out of love with food.

Ironically, we found we were eating more of this processed stuff because we never felt full. I couldn't believe how we would eat everything we could and then stalk the pantry and fridge for more. I didn't want to cook with any kind of appliance any more, I didn't even want to open another packet of "whatever", my hands were mourning. We were so empty nothing satiated us any more, it was an awful, awful feeling.

Will I never taste the soft chewy goodness of home baked goodies again?

Thankfully, someone put us on to an electrical repair company which did make house calls to fix domestic ovens. At this point we were prepared to pay a small kings' ransom, just to get old faithful back in action! When we made the appointment I could feel the serotonin in my brain, popping with anticipation of baking again.

Three more days later and all our prayers had been answered!! It was only an element around the central fan which had blown. They put a new Electrolux element in (a brand with a good reputation) and will only cost between $160 and $180 when the bill arrives. The element itself cost $80 and the initial call out fee was that too, as we lived outside the main areas they serviced. I couldn't believe all that time without an oven and it only took 20 minutes to fix old faithful!

Sourdough back on the menu again!

Since our oven has been fixed, I've made bread, buns, lamingtons, casserole, chocolate sauce pudding, pumpkin pie and 2 batches of cookies. This food is real food, filling and delicious. My bread lives in a washable plastic container too, so no plastic bags going into the bin any more! Most of the goodies I bake are made with ingredients from paper packets or bottles which get recycled. Being as responsible as we can to reduce our waste, I think also adds to the satisfaction of how we view our food. It fills us with more than just calories.

So my kitchen works again, I feel my contentment flooding every time I open the oven door and fill the house with wofting smells of sheer bliss. Dave even said when he walks in the door from work, he gets a whiff of that good old home smell again. It says, I've come home to good food and a place at the family table to eat. Oh how I missed you oven - how we all missed you!

Back in action - the hearth of the house!

While summer is just around the corner, we may not need the oven for much longer, but I plan to bake as much as I can to freeze for later use. We also plan to work really hard to save for a wood stove/oven for next winter. It just makes so much sense. Why put an electric oven to work during winter, when a wood oven would cost less to operate and double with heating the house.

For anyone living in the Toowoomba area, should your domestic oven break and the union gets onto the elves to down tools, we used the services of, "Weeks Electrical". We were so pleased they could help us save another electrical appliance from becoming landfill.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Starting a club

The infamous theme song to "Sesame Street" asks: who are the people in your neighbourhood...

Well, we found out exactly Who, when Dave started a local Dr Who group in Toowoomba recently. When living in Brisbane in the past, he learned of a local group there, but it was now two hours drive away and expensive city parking. The answer was to start a local branch much closer to home. Only there's quite a lot of organising involved when starting a club it seems.

Organiser bags came in handy for carrying stuff to the library

Dave began by searching The Doctor Who club of Australia website, to see if there was already a local branch in this area. He asked on the Facebook groups page too. Seemed there was no-one with a local group, so he took the next step by contacting The Doctor Who club of Australia. While he waited for them to get back to him, he called the public library to book a free room for the club to meet. The biggest issue he had was finding media equipment for free.

He ended up hiring it out of our own pocket and had it delivered to the library, the day before our first meeting. This is a temporary solution, and now the race is on before our next meeting, to find free equipment. This by far, has been our biggest issue: finding free public equipment. I'll report back how this Brisbane they have a free Theatre through the public library, with a projector, dark room, etc.

How did the day go though? Well, it was great! Okay, a little boring in the middle when we watched a rare movie with Peter Cushings playing the Doctor - some of those old movies are slow and clunky! But we thought it would be interesting, because the actor who played the policeman in the movie we watched, also plays Donna's grandfather in the modern television series. From a young man to an older one, I like how they recycle actors in the new productions.

Okay, I probably lost you if you're not a Doctor Who fan, LOL. I think we lost some of the audience too (during the movie) as it was predominantly a young group who weren't familiar with the older series. There were a few people in our age group, but we could tell after our first meeting, we're going to have to change the format of the meetings to come. At first we went with 5 hours, divided in the middle with a lunch break. But like the new television series, we're probably going to have to edit it down to maybe 3 hours.

Sarah's official "Who" merchandise ~ Adipose Baby

The people were great though. We all admitted to how unpopular it seems to be, to confess you're a Doctor Who fan in public. We also learned that some people came because they heard the radio interview David did, but also through the flyers we put up on community noticeboards. Some heard through the internet and some heard from friends who passed it around. We discovered a lot about networking and when there's a common interest, how word gets round.

We have to admit to a rather embarrassing start to the meeting - isn't it mandatory to have something go wrong? We couldn't get the TV to work! The one we paid for out of our own pocket, wasn't acknowledging the equipment we plugged in. We asked the first group of people who arrived, if anyone knew anything about TV's. A young man stepped forward and helped me mess around with the controls, to no avail however. Dave continued to play host and greeted more people as they arrived. I was beginning to worry we'd be TV-less, so we asked the new group of attendees to which an even younger man stepped forward.

He managed to achieve in 2 minutes, what we had failed to in 30! He changed the plugs around and whulla. Golly, I breathed a sigh of relief and could almost have hugged him. Why is it the younger you are, you seem to have an innate sense of how technology works?

Anyway, the meeting was a wonderful day and I hope the people had as much fun as we did! Many said they were looking forward to the next meeting. We were chuffed with that. Then it was back to Gully Grove to feed the chickens. The day was complete! :)

And what about the TARDIS...did I manage to finish it in time for our first meeting?

Currently residing in David's Den!

Yep, and we used it to draw tickets for the lucky door prizes too, kindly donated by the Doctor Who Club of Australia! I loved how his TARDIS turned out though. Dave and Sarah kept staring at it when it was on the dinner table, the night before the meeting. Even a young girl (primary school age) asked at the meeting if she could take it home. Bless her, but I said it was a present to someone else and I wouldn't be able to give it away.

I'll no doubt have more to share on our local Dr Who group, but for now it's another 2 months until our next meeting. Welcome any suggestions!!

Monday, August 8, 2011


Mmm...I wanted to explain more about my last entry, only the camera has gone missing. Not that we got to use the camera where we took it, but I did want to take pictures of the finished Tardis today. It will have to wait until Dave returns from work, as I'm sure it's still in his backpack.

In the meantime, here's a picture I took earlier, of the pigface (charming name) in our garden.

Pigface in flower

It's found the perfect sunny spot this year, so it's full of flowers now - even more so than when this picture was taken. I'm actually finding it difficult to take nice images with my new camera. It's only a cheap Canon, but is lacking something the even cheaper Canon camera had before.

There isn't a lot of vibrancy in my colours any more. The images always seems overexposed, like the computer chip on auto-function cannot handle our harsh Australian sunlight.

Rather than race out and buy something else to replace it however, I'm using the opportunity to review my woeful photography skills. Do you have trouble taking good pictures too?

The things I'm reviewing is where I'm standing in regards to the sunlight. Sometimes you can alter the lighting by taking the photograph from another angle. Both the two images I've put up, in my opinion, are dreadfully overexposed. These were taken on the auto-function in the middle of the day.

I'd love to hear any quick tips you may have for taking successful pictures with a digital camera. No heavy techno-talk though please, LOL, because I still don't know what a DSLR camera is. ;)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Who are the people in your neighbourhood?

This is going to be a cryptic post, because I can't give too much away just yet. Call it a mystery, if you will? All will be revealed next week, I'm sure...

or, Time and Relative Dimension in Space

Needless to say, I finally got around to painting "Dr Who Daddy's", Father's Day present, we made him last year. Gosh, it must be that time again soon - September is Father's day, in this part of the world. Has it been that long since I promised to finish his TARDIS?

I'm sure it will be put to good use, very soon.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A botanical discovery

Playing the chimes

We went to Brisbane yesterday for a few appointments, and by the end of the day, found ourselves at the Brisbane Botanical Gardens in Mount Cootha. Dave and I, have a special affiliation to this place as when we lived in Brisbane previously, we'd often visit for some serious garden oggling.

Even some of the Brisbane suburbs we'd walk up and down for our morning stroll, had glorious gardens - especially those with Heritage Listed Queenslanders on stilts. The Botanical Gardens were like a shrine to all gardens throughout Brisbane. It just said "Zen". It was peace, harmony and balance, all wrapped up in one.

As we walked through the Botanical Gardens this time however, something was distinctly different. Part of the garden was missing due to the new Brisbane tunnel project, but there was also something else. As we ambled through the different gardens, something crossed my mind. It was so subtle I almost missed it.

The Fernhouse

The gardens are so terribly contrived: there are no natural spaces at all. They attempt to blend living plants with rigid architecture. Some of it can look quite wonderful, but as we continued our journey through the gardens, other things came to light.

We saw some water birds near the bamboo. This is an Ibis I believe, and we also snapped some ducks wadding through the constructed lake.

The water seemed devoid of life. I wondered why birds were there at all. There was a great expanse of water, without much life to it. I guess it looked very functional like all public places are expected to be. Not far from the water however, we soon snapped a large lizard basking in the sunlight.

There was also yellow bamboo canes, contrasted against bright red canna lilly flowers. Wasn't this the picture perfect garden, we had often admired with great want in the past?

The people amassed around the gardens too. In fact, they were rushing here and there, up and down paths which were often far too narrow for more than single file. Something was out of place, and I guess this last picture captured it quite perfectly.

A rare moment we weren't mobbed by other pedestrians

It felt like a rat maze! There's actually a light-hearted story to this picture, but I laughed when I first saw it, as it said exactly what I was thinking: watch me bolt down this neatly clipped path, back to reality!

I think I've become a bush convert. I don't like contrived gardens much any more. It looks like a garden, but doesn't have the entangled charm of mystery which natural gardens do. Maybe it was the tunnel project, or maybe it was the fact most of the botanical gardens are surrounded by major highways - but there wasn't much wildlife in the gardens at all.

The only dominating species was humans, coming to oggle the shrine of gardens in a major city. I couldn't believe Dave and I have changed so much. Or maybe it has more to do with our changed surroundings? We don't live in the suburbs any more. We see all manner of wildlife on our doorstep, in our bushland garden. It's not that we're lucky to have what we do, but rather fortunate we didn't have the money to rip it all out and replace it with the kind of contrived "garden" we always wanted. Ninety-five percent of our five-acres remains natural bushland.

I'm ever so grateful the birds still call this place home. It's winter here too, and the parrots are still feasting on the grevilleas. The wallabies still munching on the grass and the sweet potato shoots! I'm so glad their lives still paint the colour of our world here. It's so confusing for me to think, I could miss their presence in our State Capital Botanical Gardens. All manner of plants are there to showcase botany, but it lives in a cement castle - there are people corridors instead of wildlife corridors.

It seems like a contradiction of terms - what are plants for, if not to co-exist with wildlife?