Catching Bees & Baking Challah

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 9.46.55 amScreen Shot 2017-09-13 at 9.47.29 amScreen Shot 2017-09-13 at 9.48.22 amScreen Shot 2017-09-13 at 9.48.56 amI’m going to give myself a big pat on the back here – for I wasn’t sure if I could do either these things before I gave them a try.

First I baked my first two loaves of challah bread.  They turned out wonderfully.  The best part about challah left overs – are the epic french toast that can be made the next morning.  I froze one loaf so Mike can enjoy some with us while he’s home too.

I used to work in the financial district of Toronto, and beneath this section of this city lay an underground network of cafes shops and passageways for workers to move between buildings without being exposed to the cold weather.  It is truly an ingenious system.  But I digress – what I found down there was a small bakery beneath my office that sold the most delicious challah buns.  They were golden yellow and would melt in your mouth in only a couple of bites.  They were a huge treat, and since I’ve left the city have not seen any where that sells these special pastries.  So, after what seems like now a decade I’m taking my challah love into my own hands and making it myself.  It’s surprisingly easy to make.  If you’re keen to try making them at home yourself – here’s the challah recipe I used.  I would love to show you a photo but sadly my camera is still broken – but I’ll be making these again and will endeavour to show you the results.

The other was briefly touched on a few posts back.

Bee capturing!  Mike talked me through it over the phone, and assured me I was safely protected by a bee suit.  The bees were full of honey and wouldn’t be able to sting.  Ok, I’m in!  That thrill of trying something new and scary was so rewarding.  We now have a second happy little hive!

They had been swarming on a branch in the yard so I put on the suit and placed a box underneath the swarm.  Then gently moved the branch to drop 70% of the bees into it and close it off.  You basically have to pray you caught the queen, otherwise they will just walk out and fly back to her.  My first attempt looked successful, but a few hours later I found them all back on the branch.  I gave it one more shot and woke the next morning to discover they were all happy and warm inside.  Moving beyond my fear of being stung, I knew it would make Mike really happy if I tried – so there it is, success!

The first crop of onions.

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-4-37-50-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-06-at-4-33-16-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-01-at-9-04-17-amscreen-shot-2017-02-06-at-4-27-13-pmTo put a seed into the soil is to believe in the future.  You trust that earth, water and time will bring you nourishing food.  Time has brought us 8 red onions and a random white one.

They grew in rather close quarters, and a tiny lesson has been learned.  We must plant them at a greater space to allow for bigger bulbs next year.

I’ve trimmed them and foolishly placed said onions onto the mantle in our kitchen.  Now, I am airing out our whole home from the intense perfume of fresh onions.

Another novice mistake.

Now they sit on the porch airing out for a few days before I store them in the cupboard.

Do you have a recipe that features onions that you love?  I’ll probably need to get through these red ones rather quick!  

We’ve been misted today in a dainty almost microscopic rain.  You know the kind that lightly falls on your face and skin, it feels refreshing?  Eventually it saturates you to the core, and yet at the same time is lovely because it is warm.  Summer rain, is so pleasant.

This constant rain has made New Zealand’s soil fertile and created an optimal growing season in many regions.  Palmerston North has had one of the wettest summers on record.  We can only help but flash back to our struggles in Eneabba trying to grow our food in the hot heat of summer.  We watered it endlessly.  Many of our plants died.  Here, we hope for some more sunlight to help ripen our green tomatoes. Though, I’ve heard they are good fried green anyway!

Collecting Seeds & Observations

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Last week I harvested some seeds from our sage and cilantro plants.  I just adore the flavour of cilantro.  I know it’s love or hate for most.  How do you feel about the herb/spice?

The petite seeds are now drying in our kitchen window.  As I harvested the seeds, I made a small observation and then tucked it away in my mind.  Several of the sage flower stalks had spiderwebs throughout.  On those particular parts of the plant, there were very little seeds.  In a way, it’s a small price to pay for the grounds keeping skills of the spiders.  There were still plenty of seeds to collect from the rest of the plant.

Our agapanthus are just about to bloom, and are crawling with little spider friends.

The hive is well and happy.  Mike took a peek inside and saw they were beginning to shape comb.  Yey!

The garden is cranking out food – so much so that we’ve not bought any type of leafy green in nearly 2 months.

Our little patch of baby monarch butterfly caterpillars are all gone.  Sadly, they were munched on by some very clever birds!  The only reason we know that’s what happened is a bird left the decapitated head of a caterpillar for the sake of giving us a rather brutal clue.

Some really good food has been masterfully (totally bragging here) created in our kitchen over the past few months.  I’ve taken to making buttery and garlic naan bread, palak paneer (with tofu) and Jamaican patties (with stuffings of spiced beans or even left over palak).

Here are some of the vegetarian recipes we have been leaning on:

This super easy naan recipe is completely vegan and crazy delicious.  We often don’t have any left by day 2!

These Jamaican patties took me back to my teen years microwaving pre-made patties from the supermarket.  We didn’t use mince, but chickpeas and beans instead.

This last recipe is for palak paneer.  My all time favourite Indian food.  I thought this might be quite difficult to make at home but it’s very simple and cheap too.  I’ve made it with the paneer but found it’s just as good with tofu.

New Parents learning to budget.

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Since moving to New Zealand from Australia to raise our new family, we’ve been living on a small income as Mike is the only one who is currently working full-time.  I also work part-time from home for a marketing agency based in Perth but that being said, my hours are very minimal.

Neither of us have debt, nor do we use credit cards for any purchases so we are doing well in that regard.  We have savings however this could change very quickly if we’re not careful.

So, how do we manage?

First we sat down and really looked at what we could afford to spend each month on rent, food, baby necessities, internet, power, firewood, fuel and anything extra.  We were pretty stunned at how little we would have at the end of each month.

Mike suggested we only eat vegetable meals at home – and for the past four months we’ve been on a vegetarian diet.  I was really impressed when he made the suggestion to better our health and help the planet.  He was concerned because we’ve watched far too many documentaries to justify eating meat.  We will eat any meat that we have hunted or fished for, but that’s not happened yet!

We’re avid gardeners and recently collected some old pallets and put together some fairly cheap raised garden beds to grow our own vegetables.  The growing season is very long here in New Zealand and we’re pretty excited about the prospect of eating good home grown food year round.

We hardly ever eat out now, and can be found most weekends picking up fresh produce from the local farmers market.  Apart from getting some fried fish or the odd pizza we’re really turning into home cooks and this is a huge contrast from our time in Perth.

We’ve been super conscious of what Wesley actually needs and what is not crucial. He is only 5 months old now and becoming a very active little man.  We spend a lot of time physically playing and interacting with him.  I’ve been told as parents we’re the best toy he can interact and learn from and we have really taken this to heart.  I buy his clothing second hand and have been able to sell items that he no longer fits (on TradeMe) which is also handy!

Another way we save is by using re-washable diapers.  Most days we can get through a whole day with our reusables, and when we head out of the home we swap to disposables (which save us from any messes).

We bought a second hand car.  We’ve never owned a new one, and I oddly take great joy in this.  It’s not fancy by any means but it does drive well and it’s reliable.

For entertainment we have Netflix which is $8.99 per month, and we also rent books from the fantastic library here in Palmerston North.

Lastly, our home decor.  Whilst we’re only renting this property at the moment, it’s taken me some time to shape it into a space that we love.

We’ve made the space ours by investing in some quality furniture that should last us quite some time.  The styles we’ve gone for are pretty classic and simple.

The one way I’ve been able to contribute financially (even if it is modest) is by working part time as a copywriter from home.  I’ve been employed by the company since January, which was just prior to leaving Australia.  The company has been really flexible and I love being able to spend these important months with Wesley and also bring in some coin to help give us a little boost to our savings.

Some of the changes that we had to make revolved around my shopping habits…

Eeek!  I used to spend a bit of money almost monthly on clothing. I’m often still running around in my maternity clothes as they have a little more wiggle room. As the weight has been shedding I’m finding joy in wearing items that have eluded me for nearly a year.  It’s like reuniting with old friends.

Our weekend activities are pretty outdoorsy and generally cost nothing!  Walks in town, hiking in the hills or visiting family and sometimes fishing (this does require a license which was bought for the year).

We now savour the small moments (like enjoying a takeaway coffee or fish and chips on a Friday).  It’s been an eye opener in such a positive way.  We’re both really pleased that we’ve managed to get through our first year without dipping into our savings and are really looking forward to what the future holds for us here in New Zealand.

Have you ever had to live on a tight budget?  What were some coping strategies you used?  We’re always on the look out for better ways to save…we’d love to hear how you save money too.

Slow Cooked Vegetarian Chilli

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This slow cooked vegetarian chilli will put a little fire in your belly.  It was inspired by a food blogging friend Elaine who writes Foodbod.  She posts really creative vegetarian food often with middle eastern influence of fragrant spices and sauces.

Right, so yesterday I was inspired to make some slow cooked chilli.  This all went into a slow cooker and was left to simmer for basically the entire day.  I scavenged for it in the pantry but you could throw in whatever you wanted for your chilli too.

  • 1 white onion diced
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 can of kidney beans
  • 1 jar of tomato sauce
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3x capsicum (red orange and yellow)
  • 2x Spring onions
  • 2 table spoons of paprika
  • 2 table spoons of chilli powder
  • However much salt you prefer
  • 5 large pieces of garlic crushed

This all simmered on low heat from 10am to about 4pm.  Then in the last hour I added two heaping spoonfuls of cocoa powder, which took off the acidic edge and gave it a really dark rich look and taste.  I’d never thrown in cocoa before, and saw that Elaine had done so… honestly am never not putting it in again!  It was delicious.

The topping is a mixture of: Colby cheese, cilantro, parsley, raw red onion, lime zest and juice with avocado and finally a few green jalapeños.  I also toasted a few pieces of tortillas in olive oil and butter for yummy dipping vessels.

For the 400 hours that this meal cooked, Wes and I ran amok.  He and I headed to the Manawatu river for our daily walk.  It’s about 6.5km – I puff away and eventually end up misty and sweaty and he sings like a wee little bird or passes out for the 1.25 hours it takes me to get the walk in.

He cut his first tooth yesterday, and I couldn’t help myself and have since been calling it a “Toof”.  I’m sure my ridiculous vocabulary is going to mess him up some as he gets into school.  I count before I pick him up “One, two, free” and can often hear Mike cutely doing the same.

Wes is such a beautiful, happy, content little boy.  He gets the giggles when I change his outfits, because he has ticklish armpits and he laughs at me when he has done a little poop and it surprises me.  He enjoys my interpretive dancing (the more awkward the more giggles I get) and sometimes talks himself to sleep.  We’ve seen him grow and change each day, and I am smiling whilst writing this because he really brightens my day.

The red marks all over my neck and chest in the image above, are from his little fingernails which I promptly trimmed last night as he fell asleep.

In other non baby news…

My younger sister Andrea is marrying her soulmate Kris in Cuba this week, and the family are all in attendance to celebrate for a week of fun in the sun.  We really wished we could have been there, and have been sending loads of love and support to them for their special day.  They will definitely have some really cool new memories together to cherish.  I know Wesley would have loved to watch everyone dancing…