Saturday 30 March 2013

Slothful Saturday

Well I am sorry to say there are no Sloths in this post despite the title, not even one, well maybe that calf among the pictures below might nearly qualify but that is a close as it gets.

We are spending the Easter long weekend on the Atherton Tablelands, on the Dairy Farm. If that means starting the day looking a scenery like this I am quite happy with that although I am missing the Easter down South with family, it is my first away. Lots of firsts.

This morning we did a quick dash to the local shops as Mr P (Mr Sparky's brother whose floor we are on in the second house on the farm) was rather lacking in food and well that cooler bag I packed is I am sure by now completely stinking out our kitchen, oops and a huge EWWW.

Winddy Hill, Ravenshoe

But before that I spend a fair percentage of the early morning hours clicking away taking way to many pictures of the three kookaburras happily sitting in the tree beside the house.

The rest of the day was a 'nothing mucher' and very 'slothful', well other than cooking food and time spent chatting to Mr Sparky's Aunt who had made an impromptu trip to the farm.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Easter Fun

I think I have mentioned before that I am a Lone Guide Leader (as in Girl Guides). Part of the role of Lone Guide Leader is creating a monthly newsletter for your unit who in our case are spread all over QLD with one girl in Vic and providing fun activities along with helping the girls to gain badges. Here are the two Easter activities I sent to the girls in my unit along with the water balloons and thread to make the eggs with. I hope they enjoyed it.

Embroidery Thread Easter Eggs

Things Needed:
  • Water balloons (or very small regular balloons)
  • PVA Glue/ White Glue/ Wood Glue/ Fabric Stiffener (such as Stiffy, available at craft and fabric stores)
  • Embroidery Thread in various pastel colours
  • Scissors
  • Pin
  • String

What to do:
1. Begin by blowing up the balloons. Only blow them up part way, until they are the size of an egg. Tie them shut.
2. Cut ahead of time 1 to 2 foot lengths (done for you) of embroidery thread. It is much easier to have them cut ahead of time because your hands will be getting very messy.

3. Pour some glue/fabric stiffener into a little cup or dish. Then, soak a length of thread in the cup. Pull out the thread through your fingers, removing the excess glue/fabric stiffener.
4. Now, wind the thread all around the egg. Continue will the other pieces of thread until the egg is as covered as you want. Different shades look great together, or you can do the egg one solid colour. Different shades of one colour look good too (like light pink and dark pink).

5. Tie a string around the knot of the balloon and hang them to dry overnight.
6. The next day, pop the balloon with a pin. It will crinkle up and shrink in side, pulling with it any excess glue/ fabric stiffener that was on the sides of the balloon. Then, carefully remove the balloon through one of the openings in the floss.

7. Now your egg is done. They can be displayed in a basket, or you can tie a thread to them for hanging.
The thread and water balloons for this craft are in one on the eggs in your package. The other egg has some Easter bits that you could use to stick on a card or another craft.
Bird’s Nest Dessert (Macaroons)



What you will need:

2large egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
285g unsweetened coconut
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp flour
What to do:
1     Preheat oven to 150°
2    Separate egg whites in a large bowl and add the pinch of salt, whisk until frothy
3    Add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla and mix well
4    Fold in coconut then sugar and flour
5    Line a baking tray with baking paper
6    With wet hands place a heaping tablespoon onto the lined baking tray
7    Push together and then push your finger into the center to form little nests big enough to hold your small eggs
8    Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown
9    After they cool completely place your small eggs inside the nest (Suggestion Cadbury Mini Eggs)

For more Easter ideas check out here or here . There are some great ideas. You might even be able to find something that you could make using the eggs or you could come up with an activity yourself.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Easter Cup Cakes

 Today I baked. I love baking but with only two of us in the house and my love for cake it isn't the best idea to cook all that often, really there is no need for it.

I am going to try and keep this Tasty Tuesday idea going and share some new recipes and some old favourites. As it is nearly Easter here is an Easter one to make with the kids or just for yourself.

It was a new recipe, new meaning I haven't used it before, from a recipe book called Corner Country Cooking. This is a cook book that has been produced by the Boulia, Bedourie and Birdsville Isolated Children's Parents Association (ICPA). Now if you look at these locations on a map of QLD you will understand the reasoning behind the title of the cook book, very clever. THe ICPA is like a widespread P&C that fights for the rights of Distance Education and Isolated Children. It is this valued group of people that help shape the way schools of the outback are run and the curriculum that the children are taught from.

I love cook books put out by the ICPA or Distance Education Schools as they are filled with real recipes made with things most people have in the pantry and they work.

I tweeked this one a bit, well only as far as putting a chocolate egg in the middle of each patty cake paper full of mixture. The eggs don't need to be pushed the whole way down into the mix as they sink a bit during cooking and the cake rises over them.

After they were cooked and had cooled I iced the cup cakes with chocolate icing, which I made up as I went, and topped them with a few sprinkles and another chocolate egg. I think more sprinkles ended up on the bench than on the patty cakes but the finished cake looks a little Eastery all the same.

Basic Cup Cakes (Easter Style)

100g butter, at room temp
100g (1/2 cup) castor sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs, lightly beaten
200g SR flour, sifted
100ml milk
chocolate Easter eggs
1 cup icing sugar
2 tsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
Variation butter cream:
125g unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp milk
food colouring

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius or 160 degree celsius for a fan forced oven. Line a 12 hole patty pan with patty cases. Beat together butter, sugar and vanilla essence until light and creamy. Add eggs gradually, beating well between each addition. Add the flour and milk alternately in two batches. Divide mixture among patty cases. Gently push a chocolate Easter egg part way into each patty cake. Bake in a preheated oven for 15-20minutes. Allow to cool before spreading on icing. Sift icing sugar into a bowl. Beat in butter and enough lemon to reach a spreadable consistancy.

My confession is that I just put all the ingredients in a bowl and beat it. It worked beautifully. I do think they need a bit more moisure so maybe put in a lttle extra milk and or butter. My other confession is that my icing went something like this: Put in some butter, tip in some icing sugar, put in some vanilla essence, put in some coco, put in enough water to make it spreadable while beating. Spread onto patty cakes then top with sprinkles and a chocolate Easter egg.

Now these cup cakes are headed for Mr Sparky's work place where I am sure they will be guzzled down by the fellas in the work sheds.

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Thursday 21 March 2013

She has got Wings

Anticipation and a little nervousness filled her causing the giddy feeling of butterflies in her stomach as she coolly placed her foot on the rest and hoisted herself aboard the red four wheeler. Her companion leaned back and asked "ready to go?" and she muttered back what she hoped sounded like a fairly confident "yep."

As it started to move forward she grasped the rack behind her hoping like heck she didn't fall, feeling not at all confident with this new experience yet trying to remain cool, collected. At the first gate she nervously fumbled with the chain not sure of what secret it held but after an instruction to pull it forward she opened and closed the gate without dramas. As she mounted the purring machine again the looked over the shoulder of her companion with dread thinking that is a long way down, not quite trusting their vehicle but as they moved forward she yet again grasped the rack but this time wrapped an arm around her companion putting her trust in him despite her uncertainty of the situation. Sensing her fear and being unfamiliar with this bike in particular he took it slowly down what seemed to her a hill that was similar to that in the legend the Man from Snowy River, a feat to be conquered. 

He guided the four wheeler over ruts and holes then veered off the track to crest the top of a smaller hill. As they moved faster down it's side towards moseying cattle her heart was in her throat "Scared?" he asked. She mumbled in his ear "No, well yes a little." As they reached flatter ground her fear changed to awe as she gazed upon a relaxed cow and her small calf. She had made it safely this far, they had made it safely. It was going to be okay, he would look after her.

They then turned around and headed back up the smaller hill to get back to the track that would take them to their destination. He revved the bike higher and faster they went to give them the power to make it back to the top. With relief they got there, it sure beat walking. Then they turned to continue down that rutted track trying to avoid wash outs on their way down hill. They tangled with awful wire gates needing strength to close them again so her companion took over and on opening a gate urged her to take control "here use that and that is the break." She nervously put her hands in place talking herself into it "you can do it, its easy" and she did. She slowly putted through the gate but that small thing lifted her confidence and gave her wings, she could ride.

As they reached the bottom of the hill yet another gate was tackled with and she again took control of the bike but this time without hesitation. On the other side of this gate curious strangers came to peer at these two, new to their domain, expecting something yet not sure what they would get. They gathered around waiting for what was to come maybe food, a treat or maybe to be moved to a new place. 


As the pair on the bike moved forward the crowd parted like the red sea and from the crowed emerged a almost familiar face to her, the passenger on the bike. It had familiar ear marks and brand and the breed was one she knew. It was a beast that had been trucked to this new home from where she used to live and work but that had happened well before she had arrived at the remote destination that was once her and this beast's home. This was news to share with friends, what a coincidence.

They continued on up the edge of another hill, looking over the the world from its top. There job done they headed back to the crowd who were now dispersing to feed again, to care for young. 


They headed back the way they had come, through creeks with smooth slippery stones lining them and back through the wire gates. They looked ahead at what they had to climb and she took the front seat, the seat with a view while he steered from behind. 

They found more friendly faces who where happy in their group and left them be. 

As they reached the top and flatter ground she took control and took them home, well to their home for the weekend. Her steering gave them a thrill on occasion but they made it. She was elated she had tried and had conquered this challenge, such a different feeling from when she first boarded the four wheeler behind him, her patient companion.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Farmer for a Weekend

On the weekend we had the blissful duty  of farm sitting for the lovely couple who live across the road from Mr Sparky's parents on the tablelands. Now although Mr Sparky's family are still in the dairy game this farm no longer is instead they raise a mixed herd of beef cattle with breeds from Herefords (think the red and white cattle from The Man from Snowy River) to Devons which happen to have come from the property I worked on for the last few years, fancy that for a coincidence.

Can you spot the old dairy on the top of the hill. Mr Sparky took great pride in regaling me with tales of him working in this very dairy explaining the chaos caused when cows when through into the room with the milk vat instead of back out.

The view from inside the dairy, what a hardship.

The views from the top of the hill where the house, dairy and road through is are spectacular. It looks straight down to a river flat and you can see forever it seems to mountains in the distance. The lush green just goes on forever melding into the trees and beyond. Even though the land is mostly cleared for farming the forest is fighting back always with ferns growing among the grass and scrub reclaiming cleared grassland. It really was like being on top of the world. I took photo after photo amazed at the immensity of it all and how small we are.

Can you see the dam squished between the hills?


In the afternoon I could see the cows come up to be milked on the farm across the road (Mr Sparky's parents' dairy) between a break in the trees

While there we checked waters and cattle, looked after the garden and fed the animals.

While watering the garden the afternoon sun hit the water just right creating a rainbow over the veges.

Here are some of the animals we cared for.

I am going to spread this out and put up another post of two of this lovely, green oasis.
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