Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Virtual Garage Sale

Well folks, as you may have heard, the shoulder has taken over again and so I am no longer working. As a result, I have a veritable mountain of cake decorating bits and pieces that I now hardly ever use. Since we are moving and I'm guessing my new kitchen won't be anywhere near the size of my current one, I have decided it's time to let go and let someone else have fun with all the "toys". I can personally guarantee everything is in excellent condition.

 All of the packaging is brand new but everything else has been used (unless otherwise stated). I'm offering up for sale my airbrush set and compressor, my printer, icing sheets and colourings for edible printing, and lots more.

 I'll be selling cake rounds at discount prices and all sorts of other goodies, so be sure to keep checking back as I'll be adding things every day until I get it all photographed and uploaded! I'm trying to categorize it in the "store" as I go to make it easier for you to find things. If you have been hunting for a particular item for a while, email me and if I have it somewhere in the cupboard and am willing to part with it, I'll let you know.
Happy browsing and bargain hunting!
I've made a new category in my store called "Clearance Sale" where I will be listing all these goodies so go and check 'em out before someone else gets in there first!

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Pool and Living Areas

Okay, so I'm a day late. Had to take DD6 to the doctor's yesterday and give her lots of cuddles. Anyway, as promised, here is the pool...

It's about 8 metres by 3 metres and totally private. Absolutely gorgeous to swim in all summer long! The girls hop in almost every afternoon when they get home from school (just don't tell their teachers that is the real reason their homework doesn't always get done! lol!)

It is at the end of the lovely big verandah which runs the full length of the house at the front, opening up to gorgeous views of the valley and the gently hills behind. We also have a gazebo just near the pool where DH has built the wood fired pizza oven, a tandoor oven, a charcoal grill and a brick bbq. Yes, we LOVE our food!

Inside, the living area is enormous. Originally we only had the lounge in here, but after the kitchen renovation, we moved the dining table and buffet with hutch in here too. As you can see, there is HEAPS of room even though the table is massive.

There is room up near the kitchen for a regular sized dining table if you prefer to separate them, but I have my big 6 foot fish tank there! Also, if you look in the corner behind the table, you can see the wood fire place. It heats the house up beautifully in winter and so we don't have to spend a cent on electric or gas heating! Very economical!

The house has 4 bedrooms, 2 of which are almost twice the size of a regular double bedroom. One of the normal sized rooms has an ensuite with shower,

and the upstairs one is so cute with it's pitch roof. It would make the most adorable little nursery!

Our room is ridiculously big. I use the nook by the door for my office and also have room for a sewing table. We also have room in there for a recliner couch, 3 chests of drawers and a shelving unit! The views out the front window are positively gorgeous. I've taken down the curtains because I love waking up in the morning to the view of the mountains with the mist hugging them with their peaks poking out the top. It is positively breathtaking! (Can you tell how much I love this house???)

And yes, all 3 photos are of the one room. Needless to say, we didn't pick the colour scheme, we just never got around to repainting!

The girls share a bedroom downstairs as they share all their toys and love to be together. We have tried them in their own rooms a couple of times, but it never lasted. As you can see, despite all their toys, there is still plenty of room!

So all in all, you can see what a lovely family home it is. We will all miss it as it has been a wonderful home and the girls have loved having the cubby house, chickens and ducks! At least we are taking the birds with us! The gardens are stunning too. DH has done a wonderful job with all the native landscaping and we have put in a plethora of plant trees in addition to the 2 large veggie patches.

For further details, please call our agent Katherine Faircloth from The Edge, Coffs Harbour.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

We're Up For Sale!

We finally bit the bullet and put our gorgeous home up for sale. It will be sad to say goodbye as it is certainly the most beautiful home we have ever lived in, but it is just too far for DH to travel to work (120km) with the price of petrol going up so much.

Here is a little glimpse...

I'll start with my favourite room in the house - the kitchen! It is only about 18 months old as we put it in when I started Orara Valley Cakes. Compliments of my crappy shoulder, I've had to give up my dreams of a super yummy cake business, but now the kitchen is there for someone else to make their own. I love, love, love the induction cook top. I am DEFINATELY putting one in my next house! For someone who absolutely swore by gas, I never thought I'd like an electric stove, but they are truly amazing. No more double boilers, yep, I can melt chocolate straight in the pan, and water comes to the boil faster than in the kettle!

The big work bench is awesome, and having the tempered glass panel on the benchtop is great. I can cut straight on it, roll out dough and use a dough scraper, use metal cookie cutters and not have to worry about making any scratches or chips in the bench surface. Pretty important if you had of seen the mess I made to my last counter top! It also doesn't stain if you spill food colouring!

Down the other end of the kitchen I have my double fridge space - big enough for 2 full size fridges, 2 full size wall ovens so I can be cooking 2 things at different temperatures at the same time, more bench space and storage, and best of all, 2 pantries!

I am REALLY going to miss my big walk-in pantry!

The glass splashbacks, I have decided are an absolute must too! No more grout getting gungy, and it is so easy to keep clean. Everything just wipes off without staining - even bolognaise sauce! I chose the red because DH has planted waratahs all along the front of the house, so when they are in flower, the red colour carries through from the kitchen out the window and into the garden.

Tune in tomorrow to check out the swimming pool and the living areas....

Saturday, 18 February 2012

A Cup of Tea for...Your Furniture!

Yep, you read correct - a cup of tea for your furniture.  Our big cleaning frenzy officially began today as we are hoping to list our house for sale next week.  DH tackled "Parks & Gardens" outside, while I got stuck into the interior.  I cranked up the tunes (played all my Queen and have now moved onto Powderfinger) and got stuck into it.  In line with my new "ultra cheapy" mindset, I set about cleaning the lounge room, and can I just say, it has never smelt better! (And my hands smell great too!)
Instead of your regular store bought, couple of $$ a can furniture polish that is some who knows what concoction of nasty chemicals, I make my own.  All it is is 1 cup strong black tea (be sure to strain it so you don't leave a trail of tea leaves), 1 cup cold water, 3 drops of clove oil and 6 drops of lavender.
It brings the furniture up beautifully, and the addition of clove oil kills any mould spores that may be lurking and prevents them from coming back.  Great if you live in a place that rains alot.  I add the lavender just to soften the smell of the clove a little.  I also wipe down all my window frames and window sills with this mix and the wood panelling on the walls, along with the timber on the stair case.

Whey Scones

I always have whey in the fridge (this is how I make it)as I use it to make my Honey & Oat Loaf which is our everyday bread.  It also makes a fantastic substitute for Buttermilk and is MUCH cheaper!  Scones (I think they are called biscuits in the US) are a quick and easy treat, great to whip up if someone pops over unexpectedly, or even for afternoon tea when the kids get home from school.  Using whey or buttermilk just gives them that extra oomph!  Here's how I go about it:

For a printer friendly version of the recipe (without pictures), click here.

2 Cups Flour
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
40g (2 tablespoons) Cold Butter
250ml Whey (or Buttermilk or Regular Milk)
Extra Flour

Briefly process the flour and baking powder.  (I'm a lazy cook and believe if you have the tools at your disposal, you may as well use them!

Add butter and process in pulses until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Pour into a bowl.

Add milk and combine with a knife in a cutting action.  I prefer to do this part by hand rather than in the processor because you want to work the dough as little as possible to get it nice and flaky.  If you're not as fussy as me, you can do this part in the processor.   Just pulse it until it all comes together.

Turn out onto bench and very gently bring together with your hands.  Press out to about 1 inch thickness.

Cut with a round cutter.  You want to cut it rather than shaping it as it needs the cut edges to rise properly.

Place very close together but not touching on a tray and brush with the extra milk.  They need to be close enough together that they give each other support to rise, (sounds lovely doesn't it!!) but not actually touching as you want the air to be able to circulate between them when you first put them in the oven.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and wrap in a tea towel until cool (if you can leave them that long!)  This is what gives them that special crust.  If you leave them out on a rack to cool, they will get too hard.  (I should be in the CWA! lol!)

We love them slathered in butter and golden syrup or even better still, homemade jam and whipped cream - and served with a cup of tea on the side of course!

Friday, 17 February 2012


I'm guessing that pikelets are as popular in your home as they are in mine.  They take only a minute or two to whip up and are usually gone before they even hit the plate.  I especially love them with whipped cream and homemade raspberry jam!

For a printer friendly version without pictures, click here

2 Eggs
350ml Milk (or whey)
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
20g melted butter

Whisk together the eggs, milk and sugar.

Sift in the flour and baking powder and whisk until smooth.  The batter should be the consistency of thickened cream.  If it is still too thick, add more milk.

Whisk in the melted butter.

Pour 2 tablespoons of batter at a time into a greased frying pan.  (I like to grease it with butter - I think they brown better and the taste is much better than with oil).

After 1 or 2 minutes, bubbles should start to form and pop, flip them over and cook for another minute or so on the other side.

Serve and enjoy!

Honey, Oat & Buttermilk Bread

I came across this recipe on one of my favourite food sites Food 52, and had to try it.  It has rapidly become our family favourite to the point where I have stopped buying bread and just make this.  I usually only have to bake it once or twice a week as I double the recipe and as soon as the bread has cooled, I slice it and pop it in the freezer.  That way we can just take out as many pieces as we need, when we need them.  It slices lovely and thin for sandwiches and also freezes really well.  It makes the most luscious french toast, regular toast and AMAZING toasted sandwiches.  Sometimes I throw in some soaked dry fruit and spices and make fruit loaf too.

I know alot of people think that baking your own bread is time consuming, hard work and an all out hassle, but honestly this is so quick and easy, especially if you have a bench top mixer with a bread hook.  There is very little that you actually have to do, as most of the recipe is sitting time when you can be doing something else.  I usually get the mixing part underway in the morning while I am making school lunches and controlling the feeding frenzy that is breakfast and have the bread rising by the time the girls are on the school bus.

For a printer friendly version of the recipe (without pictures and my ramblings) click here

1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons dried yeast
45ml warm water
220ml buttermilk (I use whey which is left over from my ricotta, but you could also use regular full fat, low fat or no fat milk.  I prefer whey as it is slightly tangy and gives the bread an almost sourdough like taste.)
1/2 cup oats (rolled or quick)
30g softened butter
45ml Honey
1/4 teaspoon bicarb soda
3 cups bread flour  (I like Laucke)

Combine the sugar, yeast and water in a small bowl.

Cover with a tea towel and leave until foamy.  The time will depend on the temperature of your room.  If it is a really cold day, I like to put a bowl of boiling water next to it under the tea towel.

In the bowl of your bench top mixer (I looooooove my Kenwood Chef!) combine the remaining ingredients with the yeast mixture.  Mix on low with the dough hook attachment for 10 - 15 minutes.  If you are lucky like me and your machine has a timer, you can just set it and walk away.  Just be sure to make sure that you don't have a "walking" mixer.  If you do, put a piece of non-slip matting covered with a tea towel under your mixer and it should hold it in place.

After 15 minutes, remove the bowl from the mixer stand and cover with a tea towel.  Leave the dough to rise until it has doubled in size.  Again, this depends on the temperature of your room.  On a hot day, it can take as little as 30 minutes.  In winter, I usually sit it about 1 foot in front of the fireplace.  If you don't have a fire and it is cold, place it in a cold oven next to a bowl of boiling water.

After the dough has doubled, punch it down and turn it out onto the bench.  Shape it how you like.  Sometimes I make a round free form loaf, but for school sandwiches, I use a loaf pan.  Cover it with a tea towel and let it rise again until doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 180C (or 160C if it is fan forced).  I like to slash the top of the loaf as it helps it to expand and rise in the oven (and it makes it look pretty!).

Bake for about 50 to 55 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it.

Once it has cooled completely, you can slice it up however you like.

Homemade Ricotta and Whey

I'm not a cheese maker but have decided to add it to my skills list this year as I make as much of our food from scratch as possible. I've started off with ricotta as it doesn't require any special equipment or rennet. Our milk comes in 3 litre bottles, so these quantities are for one bottle of milk as I buy it. Here is how I make it.

For a print friendly version of the recipe (without pictures), click here

In a large pot, bring 3 litres of milk to the simmer.

Add 45ml lemon juice and 1.5 teaspoons of salt.
Simmer very gently, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
While the milk is simmering, line a colander with fine cotton/muslin/cheesecloth.

Remove from the heat and strain until it is the consistency you like. The longer you strain it, the firmer it gets.

Collect the liquid that strains off - this is the whey.

I pour it into glass bottles and keep it in the fridge to use in my bread. It is also fantastic for making scones (I think you guys call them biscuits??) and biscuits (you guys call them cookies). I really like it in the bread because it isn't as sweet as milk and has a slight tang which gives the loaf an almost sourdough taste. I'm in the process of starting up a new blog on my new frugal ways of living, so I will post step by step photos there and post a link here once I get it done.

So, for $3 (which is what I pay for a 3 litre bottle of milk), I get about three 750ml bottles of whey and I'm guessing about 300g ricotta. (I'll weigh it this arvo when I make some more). Considering ricotta is $8kg and buttermilk is almost $4 for a 600ml carton over here (Australia), I reckon it is a bargain and well worth 10 minutes of my time!

For other ideas of what to use they whey for, check out my Honey & Oat Bread, Scones and Pikelets.

What cheeses do you make? What's your favourite recipe to make it?

My new frugal life...

As you can imagine, being a one income family in this day and age is not easy.  I have now decided that I want to do away with our Credit Card - pay it off completely and then cut it up.  I want to reduce our household spending as far as possible while giving my family the best life I can.  If I can't earn money, I am to save it as best I can.  I've recently signed up to do the Total Money Makeover (TMMO) where I have found forums dedicated to living frugally.  Here I aim to share how we do it while maintaining an awesome family way of life.  I'm lucky in that I love to cook, and being an at home Mum, I also have the time to indulge in making lots of things from scratch, so here I am going to share with you lots of our favourite recipes and tips along the way.
The biggest shift has been in how I handle the family's finances.  I am now using the good old "envelope system" to portion out pays as they come in.  I didn't like the plain white ones because they look like they all have bills in them, so my first job as Cindy 2.0 was to make some new ones out of some scrap fabric I had lying around. What do you think?