Archive for the ‘Home-made Sunday’ Category

The last way I found to use up the byproducts of the great lemon surplus of 2011 (having made lemon curd and nana’s lemon cordial) was randomly inspired by the delightfully titled Brian Malarkey’s Sage Sucker cocktail on designsponge.

Brian goes down in history as having the.best.surname.ever. Malarkey – c’mon that is awesome!

Apart from that coolness, he can apparently make a rather decent cocktail to. Shoot – if he can cook, iron his own clothes, clean and saw in a straight line then he may actually be the perfect man.

I noticed his sage sucker recipe calls for people to “… put two ice cubes, 3 sages leaves, 3 wedges of lemon and muddle until sage and lemon are good and mashed.” and this got me thinking…what about a sage and lemon cordial so that bit is already done?

So I decided to wildly and frivolously experiment with Nana’s lemon cordial recipe. Given Nana’s approach to brandy butter for our Christmas lunch, I couldn’t help but feel she would approve of my experimentation.

Later on in the cocktail recipe, you are supposed to add honey, so what if I added sweetener in the form of raw sugar?

You are supposed to use caster sugar in Nana’s lemon cordial…but raw sugar might balance off the flavours and remove the need to add the honey:

Raw sugar instead of caster sugar...livin on the WILD side right there!

Luckily I had a surplus of sage (although disappointingly my sage leaves are nowhere near as large as his…there must be different varieties over in the USA compared to plain old little-leafed sage Western Australia).

So I washed it clean, crushed it in my hands to release the oils and threw in my bowl of future lemon and sage cordial:

Future lemon and sage cordial

Now I am just waiting for an excuse to mix up one of these sage suckers and see how my cordial fares!

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…you can only consume so many of them in margaritas before someone says you have a problem. In which case it’s time to improvise.

My next attempt to deal with the great lemon surplus of 2011 was to make lemon curd. Helpfully I found a Burke’s Backyard recipe for it at the same time I researched sterilising jars/bottles in the oven.

Curd you pass me the toast?

Making lemon curd is not rocket science, people have been making it and selling it at fetes for generations.

Basically you need:

  • 500g sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 4 eggs
  • The zest and juice of 4 lemons

1) Beat eggs a little (According to Burkes Backyard: for a finer curd just use the yolks…but that does leave you with a lot of egg whites to deal with)

2) Put all ingredients into a saucepan and cook slowly until thick and smooth for about 15 minutes, whisking all the while to ensure you don’ t have lumps

According to Burkes Backyard you should not not use an aluminium or cast iron saucepan because the acid from the lemons will react with those metals. Instead use stainless steel, enamel or one with a non-stick surface. I think I had aluminium one and my curd turned out find, but if you’re one of those people who would pick herbs only after the dew has settled if someone tells you too, you go right ahead.

3) Pour into hot sterilised jars

Apparently the rule is if you make something that needs to be bottled when hot, you pour it into sterilised jars that are still warm; whereas if you are dealing with something cool (like lemon cordial) you wait until the jars/bottles are cool.

I am not sure if the reason is so you don’t shatter the glass, or you don’t introduce random bacteria or if doing it the other way around will start a chain reaction that causes the world to end; whatever way you look at it…it’s probably best you do what the experts say.

4) Cover when cold and store in the refrigerator, it will keep for months.

The first taste test

I want to try it on a jam and cream sponge in place of the jam. And there’s these destroyed lemon meringues in the latest volume of delicious that I reckon it could work for. It also goes well with tea and toast for a perfect late holiday morning breakfast:

Nice start to the day


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Let’s gloss quickly over the fact that it’s been over 3 months since I last updated this blog :I know, I have neglected you but you know it’s not you, it’s me – I had other stuff to do…in other places. I kept meaning to call or write but there never seemed to be time and I kept on getting sidetracked. Just be happy I am here now and typing, because I have alot of typing to do.

When I last wrote to you I may not have mentioned that I was about to be swamped in a surplus of produce. Namely, lemons. Lots and lots and lots of lemons:

A shedload of lemons

I can’t really complain about the surplus since I actively exacerbated the situation by pruning the unkempt tree, treating its leaf miner problem, mulching it with kelp and fertilising to to within an inch of its life.

Yes my lemon tree was on the receiving end of my tender loving gardening care and, as if to show how much it appreciated the attention, it flourish and gave forth lemons…lots and lots and lots of lemons.

Apart from giving them away (which I did in spades, buckets and any plastic bag I had hanging around), I had to think of inventive ways to use them…

Recreating Nana’s Lemon Cordial

The first thing I did was to try to reverse engineer my grandmothers lemon cordial recipe using all the wine bottles I have been collecting and reserving for just such an occasion.

I say reverse engineer, but I wasn’t able to find an actual recipe written down anywhere either in my family papers or from any relatives, so really all I have to go on is the fact that Nana seemed to make two types of lemon cordial:

  • Super sweet (so sweet that even as a child with a super sweet tooth I had to drink this with soda water)
  • Sour (needed to be mixed with lemonade to be palatable to my childhood palate)

Two types of lemon cordial, which she made in great quantities…without ever labelling the sweet or the sour. So basically, having a lemon cordial at Nana’s house could be a little like russian roulette unless there were stocks of both soda water and lemonade to hand.

So I went on a hunt for recipes and narrowed it down to the following Lemon Cordial Recipe from Delicieux:

  • Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons, keep the lemon halves after juicing
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of tartaric acid
  • 2 cups of caster sugar ( 1 cup if you want the sour lemon cordial)
  • 500ml boiling water

I don’t have a citrus juicer, so had to improvise to get the juice out of the lemons:

Yes that is a shot glass


1) Strain the lemon juice and place in a large bowl along with the zest, lemon halves and sugar.  Add the boiling water and stir to dissolve the sugar.

2) Place in the refrigerator and chill overnight. I ended up with a bit of a production line going on…in my fridge:

If anyone else looks in the fridge, they are going to think I have a problem

3) The next day remove the lemon halves and then stir in the tartaric acid.

4) Pour into a sterilised bottle…and post artfully for the camera:

Call me superficial but f it looks this good, you know it's going to taste great

If you are worried (as I was) about sterilising bottles, no need to stress there are heaps of methods and people have put idiot-proofed guides on the internet. I found one looking for lemon curd recipes – this is the one I followed and no one has died yet. So we’re all good 😀

I made the sour lemon cordial, so I used half the sugar of the original recipe. I made three times the amount and found it made two small 500mL bottles plus 3/4 of a 750mL bottle – still trying to get the logistics of amount to bottles right.

I can recommend the tart version as follows:

  • with honey and warm water to help ease a cold
  • on its own with water, for a tart and refreshing adult version of cordial
  • with a slurp of gin then topped up with lemonade

Hello Nana's lemon, gin and lemonade summer drink - my new fave

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After watching a segment about Lawn Care on Better Homes and Gardens, I came away with a couple of thrifty tips and ideas.

The first was the one featured in the segement – using a small plastic plant pot to spread lawn fertiliser (1:40 in the clip at the link above) as opposed to paying upwards of $40.00 for something you will only use 4/so times a year. We all have at least one small pot (about  15cm diameter) in our garages or sheds somewhere – why not do as the clip suggest and pour the fertiliser granules into a bucket and use the pot as the shaker to spread it on the lawn? It gives even coverage, ensures none of the big lumps of granules make it onto the lawn and it is exceedingly cheap!

Having been inspired by that idea, I started thinking about how I was going to spread the lawn seed. Lawn seed being much finer than fertiliser granules, the pot shaker method wouldn’t be as successful.

Luckily I have a tendency to clean and keep items that I think might be useful for future endeavours- jam jars and lids, wine bottles and their lids, herb grinders and shakers. Because you never know. And if I can’t use them, there are people I know who will be able to.

In this case, a herb shaker that I had in my stash of possibly useful items proved to be the perfect solve (and a good home-made sunday project):

Shake, rattle and save money!

It also has a lid, not shown in the picture above, making it a good container to store the seed in between lawn resuscitation efforts. So now I have a lawn seed shaker that cost me nothing except the seed I filled it with!

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According to three of my three my gardening books, you need to blanch leeks about 1 month before you harvest them. Blanching in this case means covering the stems with cardboard of some sort to make them white.

You do this so you end up harvesting a white leek with green leaves, as opposed to a green leek with even greener leaves.

Blanching your leeks is a good idea, as it could be quite confusing if you are using an unblanched leek in a recipe that calls you to chop the white part of the leek finely and discard the rest. While I might be fine guessing which of the green parts to chop and which to dispose of, it could potentially confuse some of my more scrupulous recipe following friends and/ or some of my less culinarily confident friends.

Letting unblanched leeks circulate in the general population could therefore have disastrous consequences! So, as a responsible leek grower, it is important that I blanch my leeks.

Mary, mary quite contrary how do you blanch your leeks?

Obviously I didn’t want to purchase any special leek blanching products and I don’t use enough clingwrap, paper towels, aluminium foil, baking paper or giftwrap in a calendar month (or  even a calendar year) to ensure a surplus of the long cardboard tube centres.

But, like many other urban households, my household does have access the smaller cardboard tubes they use in loo paper rolls.

Given the inevitability of death, taxes and some other things, it is possible to eventually build up a stache of these smaller carboard tubes which one can cut in half and then put several around each leek that is ready to be blanched as part of say…a homemade Sunday project:

All the leeks were in their cardboard best

Of course being cardboard, when faced with regular waterings, these little blanching tools will eventually lose their rollness and fall off the leeks they are supposed to be blanching…unless one applies some judiciously tied jute twine to make their little cardboard blanching tools into a little homecraft corset:

Corsets as outerwear, all the rage @ casa moi

It’s like a quaker-design liking, scrapbooking focussed fairy godmother waved her magic wand over a set of POGs before they got sent to the ball:

Almost as cool as a duct tape corset. And probably a lot more breathable.

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The seed saving experiment at casa moi has finally reached the zenith. (At the risk of over tarantino-esquing my post, one so rarely gets to use the word zenith in a sentence).

I harvested oodles and oodles of pretty garlic chive flowers and dried them:

More dried out that a hopped up z grade celeb at the Betty Ford clinic

The seeds (the teensy little black spots) needed a little bit of massaging to come out in some cases. In the end I crushed alot of them and then sieved them to get rid of the bulky flower and stem bits:

Shall we do a line?

Next time (pending significant developments in the garage)  I will probably dry the flower heads upside down rather than lying on their side.

Finally I got to package up the seeds and gift them to veggie garden inclined peeps and vips:

The first batch

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Golly – it’s been almost a month since I last posted. Time flies when you’re having fun (doing things like planting trees, assisting le amazant Monsieur H fix one’s reticulation, collecting prints as part of Windows on William, catching up with the Coffee Fairy on her brief stop over between London and Melbourne or preparing a 3 course meal to celebrate DIY Dad’s birthday).

It’s not like I haven’t been doing housie things. I’ve even been photographing them in preparation of documenting my efforts (and those of my elite team of helpers). I just haven’t found the time to sit at the computer and tell you about my adventures.

Until now…that is.

Le fleur à l'oignon by any other name would be an onion flower

The first thing I have to keep you posted (aaah – blogger pun there. the first person to get it can sigh in exasperation at my joy for pun-ishment), is about a home-made Sunday project that has been a while in development.

It all has to do with some sprouting onions that I planted in my garden. They are happily growing and about 2 months ago several of them decided to bud in preparation for flowering.

Now according to my vegetable book, one is to prune any onion flowers. It’s near impossible to propogate them by seed, so there’s no need to attempt to save the seeds. But the buds are quite striking – these big spikes of stem with a tear drop shaped bud on the top.

Initially they just provided a certain minimalist space age abstract je ne sais quoi to my dining table:

Reflections on the aethetics of bottles of lemon leaf water, lemon branches and onion flowers

And then, about a month later of changing their water regularly (weekly) and ensuring a tea spoon of sugar was added to the aforesaid water, they started to bloom:

Knock knock. Who's there? A blooming marvellous surprise.

Very very pretty:

Flash portrait

The flowers slowly unfurled, one at a time:


And unfurled:

Still striking

And unfurled:

Still striking

I am beginning to think that onion flowers are the supermodel of the vase. They look great at any age (Elle, Christy, Cindy anyone?), they only get better with age…in fact the only difference appears to be availability and price tag.

All this beauty from something I had to prune anyway, bargain!

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I’ve planted chives and garlic chives in the planter boxes on the patio. The chives have yet to bloom, which is a shame as their purple flowers will be quite pretty if/when they do, while the garlic chives have now bloomed for a second time.

Last year when my garlic chives flowered, I stood back and appreciated their beauty…only to spend the next year rescuing new garlic chives plants from various spots near the planter boxes, including between cracks in the paving and from the lawn. Can’t see ’em go to waste, can’t let em grow where the wind has blown them.


Reflecting on the project


As the bluebells finished and the garlic chives started to flower again this year, I decided to experiment with saving seeds.

I have picked the first batch of flowers early to see if that’s successful, depending on the success of this project I might leave the later batches until they are almost dead and the seeds are likely matured.

For now, I have popped the flowers into a glass with some water with a teaspoon of sugar. I have popped that onto a paper napkin that I hope to collect the seeds on as they fall:


We sow the seeds, nature grows the seeds, we collect the seeds - it's the timeless wonder of it all.


At this stage they are just theoretical seeds, but who knows what will happen. They look quite pretty with a couple of onion flowers I snipped off before they bloomed, per the advice of one of my gardening books.

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Another Homemade Sunday project I’ve undertaken is to rescue the wine bottles used in my house. Instead of recycling them via the council, I have stored them until I had a big enough batch then soaked their labels off and removed the tin around the neck of the bottle:


There were 6 empty bottles, hanging on the wall


Unless you plan to turn them into vases or flower holders, you’ll need to keep the lids;)

The easiest way to remove the tin around the neck is to use an old fashioned can opener – it’s the easiest thing to get in between the tin and the neck of the bottle and then you can cut the tin as you would a can. You will need to be careful – hold the bottle so it doesn’t slip and keep your fingers out of the way of the tin’s sharp edges and also in case the opener slips.

Eventually, I hope to use these bottles to hold lemon cordial but while my lemons ripen I am using it to hold scented waters that I have made as homemade sunday projects.

Lemongrass water

This is lemongrass water I made by pruning my lemon grass and then infusing it with water (i.e. pouring water all over it and bring it to the boil). Using a big soup pot, I managed to get two batches of lemongrass water out of the prunings.


Lemongrass water in the background


What I have done with the lemongrass water so far:

  • I add it to my laundry (once the water is in the tub) to lightly scent my laundry.
  • When m flexible room scenter/laundry freshener ran low, I added more bicarb to the jar (front right in the picture above) and also added a slurp of lemongrass water to it.

I plan to make a facial spritzer and a room spray with it too – just researching spray bottle options atm.

Lemon leaf water

As you know, I partially pruned my lemon and used the branches and leaves for decoration at my impromptu harvest dinner, the next day I stripped all the leaves from the branches (I have reused the branches as decoration) and boiled the leaves and blossoms up to make lemon leaf water:



Still life with bottles of lemon leaf water standing to attention on the window sill


The smell of lemon from leaves is quite strong and pungent and will make a good laundry scenter, additive to my bicarb room/laundry scenter and will also make a good room spray.

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The urge to collect Moccona jars is strong in my family – DIY Dad tends to buy and keep the larger ones while I usually get the smaller ones to keep spices in.

Obviously at some point, one reaches critical mass for the amount of Moccona Jars one household can contain. However while DIY Dad has met that threshold, casa moi has yet to. I blame the fact that I keep on finding new and different things to store in them as the reason why I can always find a way to reuse them…

DIY Dad is now handing all his larger jars over to me as he collects them. So far, one jar has become the resting place for my flexible room and laundry scenter, while others contain split peas and rice.

Inspired by how some other blog owners are jzuzzing their laundry areas by putting laundry powder into fancy apothecary jars, I decided to do a somewhat less fancy tidy up using moccona jars. I have a wealth of them, so why not?

Very fancy looking laundry area

Obviously my laundry is not going to look as House and Garden or Home Beautiful as the examples you can find online, but this way I don’t have to go out and buy apothecary jars plus the window ledge I intend to keep them on is not that wide.

Although Moccona jars do not seal perfectly (i.e. they are not great for jam making or preserving), they do seal well enough to keep laundry power, napisan and etc in.

Et voila:

We not fancy...but we not cheap either

So now I have a jar for napisan, a jar for laundry powder and a jar for my amazing multi-purpose lemon, rosemary and lemongrass (late addition to the mix) room/laundry scenter.

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