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Happy StyleMAS 2016

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With the new tree topper

This year’s StyleMAS was a little subdued, one of the housemates was ill when I was setting it up so my heart wasn’t in it this year.

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Pretties from the side, with the old tree topper

The colour theme this year was matt white porcelain and lime green.

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Silhouetted pretties

I bought a new tree topper to go with this theme after I’d decorated the tree, so you have a couple of photos with the old snowflake tree topper and a couple with the new star tree topper.

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With a couple of fancy presents under the tree.

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Segue: Clearly this is not a post about the world’s most dangerous group, or even the world’s most dangerous pursuit. I am currently fascinated with NWA and am aiming to watch Straight Outta Compton ASAP (I missed it when it was released at the cinemas).

As a (very white) girl, in another country who was in her very early teens when NWA were most active, who had only just found mainstream FM radio in Australia when they were most active (it would be a couple of years before I found alternative and public FM radio) and whose family didn’t have a TV: a lot of the issues and news coming out of the USA at the time passed me by. The concept of other countries, where citizens have very different freedoms (regardless of what’s in law) and are treated differently on a day-to-day basis: including being presumed guilty by association, by colour or by attire is a complex one. And – to someone who has lived a relatively privileged life – somewhat foreign to me: especially as an early teen.

Those were innocent times, and I am lucky that I lived in a country and culture that has a relatively gentler way of life. But as you search for knowledge and understanding, you find more and you see more.

Now that I am a little more aware and have access to news sources beyond TV Hits and Smash Hits magazine, and having seen the recent (and not so recent) issues African-Americans are confronted with – on a daily basis -in the USA I want to know more. It’s heart breaking and devastating to see shows like The Wire, to see news reports of Hurricane Katrina, Trayvon Martin and more; and to feel that elsewhere in the “apparently free world” – in a first world multicultural country whose dollar, educational institutions and businesses are held up as the gold standard and epitome of excellence – large sections of the population are not free. And will never be free unless something changes.

I’d like to say it’s incredible to me that a racial group can be so profiled and no cultural education efforts have been undertaken to enforce change in the police force and elsewhere: but my own country (Australia) is not great on that front either: given our treatment of refugees and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders, we definitely cannot hold our heads high. While countries in glass houses can’t throw stones, it’s fair to say my country – while not being that great – is also nowhere near as violent and gun-focused: our citizens don’t have the right to bear arms (and gun violence stats are noticeably different) and the powers of our police are different. Plus there is better access to education and social services in Australia (and frankly the quality and support our country offers our citizens appears to be streets ahead of anything the USA does for its own). As a citizen I’d like to think while we’re not great, we’re definitely not the worst…and that not coming last on a list of the worst, doesn’t mean we ourselves don’t have to change and get better.

This has been front of mind since Straight Outta Compton was released. I am a lucky citizen, living in a lucky country: I have the education, profession, financial standing and security to have pursuits and take part in activities that are, frankly, luxuries to many people. While I may not be as free and may not be rewarded at the same level in my profession (by advancement or salary) as a man in exactly the same situation and background as I (or even a man less qualified), that is a diatribe for another time: I am still pretty f*cking lucky. If casual and not-so-casual misogyny, glass ceilings and claiming my equality as a first class citizen of a first world country are my only problems: my status of being pretty f*cking lucky still stands. Plus (thanks to access to education and more), I have to the tools to deal with that sh*t and both recognise and assert myself in those situations: so, frankly…god help the person who is not aware and/or is enabling that systemic prejudice on my watch.

So when I take part in activities like Passata Day (which in itself – for me – is a cultural appropriation since I don’t have an Italian family and background), I want to reflect and recognise that there are people out there: both in my own country and in the wider world; who don’t have opportunity and luxury and it breaks my heart. I do want to be self-aware of my privilege.

Ergo me titling the skippy Australian Passata Day event, where the Garden Goddess sans beau mari and I make Passata: N.W.Passata Day.

Back to N.W.Passata Day

It has been my aim to do Passata Day since I started watching SBS Food Safari and saw Passata Day (aka Tomato Day). Since then I have eagerly watched episodes on many cooking programs about Passata Day

Passata day is an annual Italian tradition that’s celebrated around Australia, often in January when tomatoes are at their best. It involves families coming together, chopping tomatoes, boiling them and then bottling the mixture for cooking throughout the year. Of course, at the end of a hard day’s work, it also calls for a classic Italian lunch, with homemade wine and lots of laughter.

With the aim of eventually celebrating Passata Day myself. It’s a social event and it’s a lot of work, so you need at least one someone else to have a Passata Day. I mentioned this to the Garden Goddess, she does preserve her own garden produce, and she was keen to take part in the inaugural event.

First Up: Recette

There are oodles of recipes, the Garden Goddess and I settled on this one: chewtown.com/2015/03/how-to-make-tomato-passata-the-italian-family-method/ by a Perth girl (who flew over from the eastern states to take part in her family Passata Day).

Basic proportions are: 1 kg tomatoes = 750mL of Passata.

For each jar you need: 2 big italian basil leaves.

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N.W.Passata Day produce

Learnings

  • Save your passata bottles, you can reuse them
  • Do your maths: ~18 kg of tomatoes = ~18 750mL containers (or more containers if you have smaller jars)
  • Save random, larger sized jars: they work too
  • Any jar with a pop top lid can be used
  • It’s better to have more jars than less
  • You can sterilise bulk quantities of jars in an oven easily recommended temperature is 130°C-140°C for 20 minutes (other options are a microwave: but that’s getting into capacity given how many large containers you are doing, or using a sterilizer solution: uses a lot of water)

Second Up: sourcing the tomatoes

Sources I found said late January and/or February was best for Passata Day: you are preserving tomatoes when there’s a glut. And in terms of cost-benefit analysis: you want to purchase your tomatoes cheaply since you use quite a bit.

I drive past a growers market on my way home (Balcatta Growers Fresh), and saw crates of tomatoes. So set up an event around my availability and the Garden Goddess’s avails too. It ended up being a fortnight after I saw the crates.

Unfortunately, thanks to weird WA weather the glut of tomatoes became a shortage of tomatoes by the time the day arrived (31 January): we went to the growers market, and to the weekly growers market in Midland…in search of tomatoes: Nada.

That was a bit of an anti-climax: I’d cleared my kitchen, washed bottles, calculated tomatoes to passata output, and the Garden Goddess had gathered her mouli, giant bowls, own jars and more…for there to be no action on the Tomato Front.

Slightly disheartened and tired (without having even touched a tomato), I rescheduled the event for the 27 February.

On that day, we didn’t do as much prep work: I hadn’t cleared my kitchen, the Garden Goddess hadn’t bought her massive bowl, mouli, jars and etc. We went to the Kyilla Growers Market….to find no bulk tomatoes (but plenty of bulk stone fruit), then we went to Balcatta Growers Fresh to find…..TOMATOES

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1 x 10KG Net box of tomatoes = ~9-10 bottles of Passata

Being utter noobs: we bought 2 x 10kg boxes without looking at the quantity and doing that first Tomatoes to Passata calculation: 1 kg tomatoes = 750mL of Passata. We bought enough tomatoes to make at least 20 bottles of Passata – probably a lot of tomatoes for first-timers who’d never done it before.

We then had to race around and gather our equipment, sample the Garden Goddess et beau mari’s home-made Mulberry Wine (okay that wasn’t a requirement, but it had to be done: and it was very nice), harvest basil from the Garden Goddess et beau mari’s garden (organic basil), then head back to mine for N.W.Passata Day.

Of course: the 27 February dawned hot, very hot: over 40°C hot.

That meant we really only worked inside, under the airconditioning…with the oven on: because it was pretty damned hot outside. As you know, my kitchen is pretty small: so it was lucky there were only 2 of us.

On the plus side: the layout of my benches meant we could stand face to face and work: so we could talk and chat, rather than feeling like we were in a production line. And the aircon was blowing on our backs (important)

Learnings

  • Reminder: Do your maths: 1 kg tomatoes = 750mL of Passata.
  • Roma tomatoes are apparently the best (this is what we went for)
  • Kitchen Layout is important, if you are stuck inside.
  • It’s meant to be a social day: don’t lose that component
  • Aircon is really important if Passata Day falls on a super hot day

Third Up: Prepping the tomatoes and kitchen logistics

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The tomatoes need to be stuck in a bowl of water (washed), then cored and any bad parts cut off, then thrown into a stock pot to be blanched. We had 2 stock pots: one larger than the other.

house-1048Use of knives, bowls, stock pots, cutting boards and pans is critical in terms of logistics: we were learning along the way.

Also: expect to go through every tea towel you own, plus the one the Garden Goddess bought along.

Learnings

  • Paring knives are critical: I didn’t have one, and the knife-possessing Garden Goddess only bought a large knife; so we worked a lot slower on coring and de-bad-parting the tomatoes
  • The Garden Goddess has exceptional standards when it comes to knives and their sharpness: be prepared to be shamed if your knife is blunt 😉
  • Tomatoes are messy and wet: put a tea towel under the chopping board to catch any water or juice run off
  • Have the counter top compost bin handy to clean down work stations
  • Have a larger compost bin than normal, so you don’t have to empty it as often
  • Don’t let the Garden Goddess empty the counter top compost bin into the compost bin out the back: she will just shame you for the state of your compost 😉
  • Make sure you have cleared everything in the kitchen you can, you will need the space:
    • Because I had a draining board full of dishes, I didn’t have as much space as we really needed once I’d washed all the jars: that meant things were cramped over near the oven
  • Make sure you have cleared everything on the dining table you can, again you will need the space:
    • The dining table became the repository for sterilised lids, boxes of tomatoes, the bowl of passata and then finally the cooling jars of passata
  • Having bowls to hold the cored and de-bad-parted tomatoes that equate to the capacity of the stock pots is handy: means once the bowl is full, you know you can blanch another batch of tomatoes:
    • My yellow/orange plastic bowl = capacity of the Garden Goddesses’ stock pot
    • My pink/red plastic bowl – capacity of my own stock pot
  • If you are still prepping tomatoes to be blanched when you start processing the tomatoes into passata then you may have to rejig what you are doing with the bowls: we used the silver bowl for bathing tomatoes and to hold the tomatoes as we (mainly the Garden Goddess) mouli-ed them into Passata.
  • A large colander with a bowl that fits underneath it is good (again that was a little more juggling for us, as the large bowls were already being used):
    • Drain the tomatoes into a colander in the sink, then pop a bowl underneath the colander: that’s where you’ll take them from to feed the mouli
    • Once the tomatoes are drained in the sink, any liquids that end up in the bowl are actually from the tomatoes: incorporate that into the passata

Fourth Up: Processing into Passata

The Garden Goddess took the lead in terms of mouli-ing, while I popped tomatoes into the mouli, kept an eye on jars being sterilised, tomatoes being blanched and draining them and getting them ready to feed in to the mouli.

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Passata being reheated ahead of jarring

These photos make it seem more leisurely because this was taken at the end of the day, but for much of the day the two stock pots where blanching tomatoes and we had a smaller pot for heating batches of passata.

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Check out how messy the stove is: overflow from the water the tomatoes were blanched in

Recommendation: At about this point in the process, recharge with some cake and wine. And continue drinking wine (responsibly) for the rest of the process.

Learnings

  • Reminder: If you are still prepping tomatoes to be blanched when you start processing the tomatoes into passata then you may have to rejig what you are doing with the bowls: we used the silver bowl for bathing tomatoes and to hold the tomatoes as we (mainly the Garden Goddess) mouli-ed them into Passata.
  • Having a smaller, deeper bowl to use with the mouli is important:
    • it makes it easier to use the mouli, is more wieldly and it gives you a sense of progress that you don’t get using a larger bowl with giant capacity.
    • As it gets full, you can pour into the larger silver bowl holding the processed passata.
    • A 3rd stock pot would have been ideal for this (small opening, but deep capacity)
  • Next year we’re going to borrow a tomato processor and see if that works better than the mouli (the mouli was good, but we want to see if we can speed up that process…)
  • When you put the tomatoes into the mouli as the Garden Goddess is mouli-ing, it’s a little like playing the laughing clown game at a fair, except:
    • With piping hot tomatoes that will hurt your fingers and may splatter the Garden Goddess when you pop them in the mouli, so be careful
    • You need a wooden spoon to occasionally press the tomatoes down in the mouli
    • The mouli works better with more tomatoes (we started by only having 4-5 tomatoes in at a time, we were up to about 8-10 by the end of the day)
  • Make sure your entire supply of tea towels is washed and easy to access. You are going to need them: we went through about 8-10 on the day.
  • If bench space is an issue:
    • 3-4 stock pots instead of 2 will stand you in good steed when it comes to passata-making: 2 for blanching tomatoes, 2 for mouli-ing into and reheat the passata into (as one gets full from mouli-ing, you swap it out for the empty stock pot and put the full one on the stove ready for heating

Fifth Up: Putting the Passata into the Jars

We didn’t end up processing all our ~20KG of tomatoes, we probably did about 15KGs and it took us about 6 hours (first timers). And we did it in batches (pros and cons in the term of bowl and stock pot availablility as we cycled through each process because we weren’t jarring things until the very end).

We were definitely faster with the second batch compared to the first. Partly down to learning skills, refining process and logistics along the way, but also with the first lot we were juggling counter space, bowls and pots, as jars were filled that freed up counter space and as we stopped blanching tomatoes we freed up pots (and oven/counter space)/

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The final output

For 15KG of fruit, we produced 9 x 750mL containers, plus 6 x 500mL containers, and 2 ~400mL containers. So ~10.8L of Passata. Which equates to about 14.06 jars of passata that you would buy from shop.

For $15.00 per 10KG carton, and knowing we didn’t turn 5KG of tomatoes into passata, that works out at  $22.50 for the tomatoes. Which in turn works out to about $1.60 per jar of Passata.

If we compare that to prices gourmet Passata (not supermarket brand), you’re looking at between $2.00-$3.90 per jar: so it does work out significantly cheaper to make it this way.

And you are in control of what goes into the jars. These only contain:

  • Tomatoes
  • Maldon Sea Salt
  • Organic Basil
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Passata for 2 households.

Learnings

  • Reminder: If bench space is an issue:
    • 3-4 stock pots instead of 2 will stand you in good steed when it comes to passata-making: 2 for blanching tomatoes, 2 for mouli-ing into – you can then reheat the passata in that pot and as one gets full from mouli-ing, you swap it out for the empty stock pot and put the full one on the stove ready for heating
  • Funneling the Passata into the sterilised receptacles is cleaner than ladleiing (as at least 1 of my tea towels will attest to)
  • If you only have a small funnel, a long metal skewer is handy to clear blockages
  • There are larger funnels (jam/preserving funnels), next year the Garden Goddess will bring hers
  • At this point: oven gloves are handy as you are going to be handling hot jars, filling them with hot passata, and then putting them somewhere to settle…while they are still hot.
  • Alway put hot passata into hot jars:
    • otherwise the jar may shatter (this did not happen to us)
    • if the pop lids pop back in then – according to the Garden Goddess – you don’t need to heat process them (boil them in a stock pot until the lids pop in, this can apparently also be done in an oven)

Final words

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Artisinal hipsta tomatoes

Remember to express yourself…and sieve your tomatoes

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Happy StyleMAS 2015

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StyleMAS tree, avec des lumières 🙂

Another year ends, another StyleMAS approaches…

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Overexposed goodness

This year’s colour palette is: pale blue, silver and pewter. Voila:
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I may have treated myself to a set of battery powered string lights from Typo:

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So pretty.

They are very cool with the lights on:

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With the lights on…

And also with the lights out:

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With the lights out…

I love the reflection of the lights in the glass of the table top:

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On reflection…

Simple, subtle, but very pretty:

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Reflections…

I am getting a little bit of the “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house / Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…” feels right now:

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T’was the night before Christmas…

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Happy StyleMAS 2014

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Plywood and Porcelain Prettiness

It’s been a while since I updated you on housie happenings. And it’s not like I haven’t had anything to tell you about: I’ve done quite a few things around casa moi!

But things have been busy elsewhere. Since I wrote on this blog last, I’ve travelled to the UK (and Spain) to see family and friends, gone hiking on Dartmoor just like the Famous Five, had high tea at The Ritz, gone on a tapas tour of Barcelona, strolled through Salvador Dali’s house, found out I am going to be an auntie. So many things!

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With books in the background.

This year’s tree decorations include some amazing plywood hanging shapes. They are not strictly tree decorations, I picked them up in the London Design Museum, the first museum/gallery I visited on my trip. Which coincidentally also happened to be the place where I realised my highfaluting idea that I would not buy anything in museum and/or art gallery shops on this trip…was doomed to fail. Doomed to fail many times over (it failed about as many times as I went into Museums and Art Galleries).

The shapes are called the Snug Trio. If you can’t make it to the London Design Museum, you can buy them here: snugonline.bigcartel.com/product/snug-trio

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Christmas Vista

I didn’t get to do my annual 1 December = Champagne and Christmas Tree decorating as I was in the UK. And when I got back, I was actually quite ill (cold > sinus infection > ugliness), so the tree didn’t go up until a couple of days before Christmas…and it went up without champagne (antibiotics for aforementioned sinus infection, meh).

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Shapely Silhouette with Astroturf Bunny

But all’s well that ends well 🙂 That’s it for another year.

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Happy StyleMAS 2013

As we know, the first of December means a bottle of champagne is purchased for the household and the table-top Christmas tree is decorated while all members of the household who can drink champagne consume the aforesaid bottle of champagne…

…this is why having cats as housemates is cool: no sharing the champagne.

…and this is also why being single has the occasional benefits: no.sharing.the.champagne ;P

I am still loving the contrast between matt white ceramic ornaments and deep green tree, so this year is a riff on SlackerMAS of last year, with a couple more sets of baubles to show I went to a little effort:

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Christmas tree booty

We have the stitched ikea hearts, the white trees and birds and handmade ceramic snow flakes, with miniature dark pewter glitter baubles for contrast. Plus astroturf bunny came out to play…

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Astroturf bunny strikes again

As well as drinking champagne, Christmas tree decoration time is also time to catch up on the teev. To continue the green theme I watched Arrow while compiling this wonder.

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Lean green Xmas machine

Unfiltered:

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Champagne glow

From the left:

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The Marvel Storybook collection you see in the background is not mine, it was purchased on behalf of a friend. No judgement pls.

Full frontal:

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I really need to do something with Astroturf bunny for Easter next year…

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I know 2012 Christmas is so 44 days ago and we are now only 321 days away from 2013 Christmas*, but I still want to belatedly share this year’s theme for Christmas:

Happy SlackerMAS

Happy SlackerMAS

White ceramic birds and christmas trees (christmas trees on a christmas tree, so meta** :P):

Like a bird on a wire...on a tree.

Like a bird on a wire…on a tree.

I treated myself to the white matte ceramic birds and the white matte ceramic christmas trees from Domayne. I only intended to buy 5 x birds, but they had a s.a.l.e. and the ornaments were 30% off, so I upsized to include 5 x trees too. I love a bargain.

Of course, I also upsized to include a bunny made out of astroturf. Totally spurious and really more of an Easter thing than a Christmas thing.

But it’s a m*thaf*ckn bunny made out of m*thaf*ckn astroturf and on s.a.l.e.- how was I ever going to resist that?

Can you see bunny? S/he's disguised in the shadows...

Where’s bunny now?

Lastly but not leastly, a tiltshifted tree:

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So.far.away.

* For the record, I really loathe it when people tell me how many days, weeks and/or months it is from Christmas, so I don’t know why I am doing it here.

** Meta is a prefix, not a word and I loathe people who use it as a word. But since I have already committed one venal sin in this post (by counting down to Christmas), why stop at one venal sin?

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Hipstermas tree

It’s that time of the year again. The time to crack open a bottle of champers and decorate the Christmas tree. This post is a little belated as this year I managed to decorate my tree on the 1st of December, rather than the night before Christmas.

This year, as with previous years, while the rest of the world is strewing garlands of fairy vomit multicoloured tinsel around like it’s the morning after fairy spring break, I am more measured in my approach. The Christmas Elves are going to have to improve tinsel technology significantly before I let its lairy morning after, winged little whore-ass into my house.

I bet you can you tell the sight of tinsel fills me with that special Christmas spirit and joy to all personkind 😉

Shades of grey

This year, I went for a metallic grey themed tree with decorations ranging from silver through to pewter with tiny little pops of white in the form of some ceramic snowflakes I picked up off etsy:

White against dark faux green, one of the best colour contrasts ever

So a Happy Christmas to you, lets hope Santa’s list shows that you have been nice, not naughty this year…if you have tinsel on your tree or in your office, I bet you are looking at it slightly differently now 😉

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