The Ds In The City Of Love

We arrived quite late in Paris so, while being transferred from the airport to the motel, Paris looked like any other city. To be honest, we could have been in Sydney. The time we spent, which was not nearly enough, in the City of Love quickly set me straight.

On the morning of our first full day, Mr D and I went for a wander after breakfast. Don’t be afraid to stray but make sure you can find your way back. Our stroll was the beginning of our ‘magical mystery tour’. This became Mr D’s nickname for our holiday as he had not seen the itinerary.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Eiffel Tower. It’s hard to believe that this structure, completed in 1889 and standing at 324 meters tall, was not intended to be permanent. It’s purpose was to serve as the entrance way to the 1889 World Fair and then be demolished.

Seeing the Eiffel Tower took my breath away. As a kid growing up, and as an adult, I could only imagine what it might look like in real life. After seeing it, I realised that books and movies have not done it justice. The size and grandeur can only be appreciated with your own eyes.

Having taken in the magnificence of this structure, we were then given a choice between entering the Eiffel Tower or taking a cruise on the Seine. It would have been nice to see the view from within the tower however standing in the queue, which was very long, was not appealing. The decision to cruise on the Seine was a good one, and I would highly recommend it as something to do if you’re lucky enough to get to Paris. When short on time, as we were, it was a great way to see a lot of the sights.

The next sight on our tour was the Arc de Triomphe. This amazing structure was built to honour those who fought for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Again, best seen with your own eyes.

We had a bit of free time after this and the first challenge was to find a toilet. I will only dwell on this topic once (fingers crossed behind my back), I promise. I’m going to tell you, if you don’t already know, that finding toilets, and free ones at that, in Europe can be compared with finding a needle in a haystack. After doing laps of the block looking for one, and me refusing to go any further, we decided to go into the next restaurant we passed (which happened to be Cafe du Pont-Neuf), eat lunch, indulge in an alcoholic beverage or two and, of course, use the dunny….gratis! This was pretty much how we handled the toilet dilemma for the rest of our stay in Europe.

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Last but not least, our tour group visited the Notre-Dame de Paris. Another feast for your eyes.

In the evening, Mr D and I attended the Le Lido Cabaret. We caught the metro (a funny story for another day), which was across the road from our accommodation, Hotel Median, to George V station. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed once the girls appeared on stage however, it was a spectacular show.

(Le Lido was something I booked as an extra activity outside of our tour. The cost for the two of us was $265 AUD and included a glass of bubbles).

There you have it. A very long day taking in some of the magnificence of the City of Love. Hopefully we can go back one day and take in the rest.

The next leg of our magical mystery tour involved a fast train to Marseille, a scenic bus drive and an afternoon spent in Cannes. Watch this space!

Mrs D x

P.S In the event you can’t find a free toilet, or a restaurant or cafe you like the look of so you can use theirs, please make sure you always have change in the form of €0.5 or €1. One toilet we found had a turnstile that only took €0.5. That’s all I will say about our toilet adventures, maybe…

 

The Ds in Dubai

On our trip to Paris, we elected to break in Dubai for 2 nights, and what a good idea that was! We discovered that Dubai is definitely a place Mr D and I would like to spend more time. Our two night stopover was clearly not long enough.

Our first adventure was Dubai by Night and it was organised by the driver who transferred us from the airport to our motel, Grand Millennium. The Dubai by Night tour took us to the Dubai Mall and Dubai Marina and the cost was $50 AUD each or 150 AED each (Arab Emirates Dirham).

The Dubai Mall is nothing like any mall I’ve been to in Australia. It has over 1200 shops, an aquarium, a video screen 50 meters wide and 14 meters high and a light show, just to name a few of it’s attractions. It is said to be the largest shopping centre in the world, and it was crowded!

The light show was spectacular and certainly drew quite a crowd.

Another stop on our night tour was The Dubai Marina. Despite the heat and humidity, which kept fogging up the lens on my camera, I managed to take a few photos.

The Grand Millennium, our accommodation for the duration of our stay in Dubai, was stunning. Our room was as big as a small house, the breakfast buffet, which was included in the price, was outstanding and everything was so clean.

Day two included a trip to The Mall of Emirates in the morning, followed by lunch and a swim in the pool at the motel, and then a 4×4 safari in the afternoon/ evening. The motel provided a free shuttle bus so, to kill some time before the safari, we decided to investigate The Mall of Emirates which boasted it’s own ski park. Yes, that’s right, in 45 degree (celsius) heat you could don your ski gear and hit the slopes and, afterwards, enjoy a hot chocolate by the fire.

When in Dubai, you must do a four wheel drive safari. Dubai was built in the middle of the desert however, in the more heavily populated areas, you wouldn’t know. It’s certainly a place of contrast. The city areas screamed opulence, however, as we drove further into the desert, it became clear that not everyone enjoys that enviable lifestyle.

The adventure began with our driver, John, picking us up from our motel. John didn’t have much to say at first but it wasn’t long before his wicked sense of humour emerged. John had a song that, when it started to play, you knew that the driving was about to get extreme. The whole experience was rough however it was thoroughly enjoyable.

There were stops before and after our desert bashing experience. Dinner and a show was provided afterwards in one of the many camps that are dotted around the desert. The experience would not have been complete without taking a camel ride. At a cost of $50 AUD each, the four wheel drive safari was definitely great value.

 

So that was what we managed to squeeze into our brief stopover in Dubai. It’s definitely a place worth visiting if you ever have the chance. We flew with Emirates and the flight took fourteen hours from Sydney. The next leg of our trip was the flight to Paris. Watch this space!

Mrs D x

Paddock+Garden = Today’s Late Lunch

Our plan, for a long time, has been to be as close to a self-sustainable lifestyle as possible while still having a practical mindset….you can’t do everything! We still have a long way to go, however, today marks a milestone at RaFG headquarters.

Today, when I looked at our roast lunch, there were only two things on the plate that had not come out of the garden or the paddock (condiments excluded), the potatoes and the broccoli. It’s too early for potatoes (here anyway) and I never have any luck growing anything in the Brassica family.

I started to write this post while lunch was cooking. I could smell the leg of lamb (from one of our lambs) roasting away in it’s marinade of garlic and rosemary (both out of the garden) infused in olive oil.

In the saucepan, ready to cook, were the beans and squash picked fresh out of the garden.

And soon to go into the roasting pan, with the lamb, was the golden nugget pumpkin that I picked yesterday.

All we need now is a crop of hops and some grape vines…

What’s growing in your garden?

Mrs D x

 

 

2016: Done And Dusted

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

I know…I’m 10 days late. I started writing this post last year. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to actually finish some blog posts. I have about 14 drafts on the go at the moment. See how we go.

Anyway, I’m never blinking again! Where did 2016 go?

This is what 2016 looked like for Mr D and me. A lot of people have said to me that 2016 was a bad year. It certainly had some challenges for us and we lost our dear Nanna, however, for the most part, I decided to highlight what was good about this year.

Enjoy! You’ll need a cuppa for this post.

January

It was either a really quiet month or a really busy one judging by the lack of photos. I can guarantee that we were weed spraying, whipper snipping and drenching sheep at some point.

We did celebrate our young friend Anitra’s 18th birthday.

February

We celebrated our friend Jane’s 50th birthday in fine ‘Once Upon A Time’ style.

Spent a couple of days in Merimbula.

The garden was in full swing.

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Our piggies were growing like wild fire.

Mr D built the Turkeys their new accommodation.

Towards the end of Feb, we headed off on an 11 day cruise to the Pacific Islands.

March

Mr D constructed new accommodation for our growing piggies and the three boys were castrated.

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Lambs were born.

I turned another year younger.

We moved our son to his new house.

Lots of veg was harvested from the garden.

April

Mr D went back to work part-time after being made redundant in June 2015.

Our nephew, Matthew, married Gabby.

Mr D built the first piggy feeder….it’s come a long way since then.

The vegetable garden kept giving and giving.

The fire was started for the first time in 2016….we almost made it to Anzac Day.

May

Our daughter turned 22.

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We drove to Tatong, which is past Benalla in Victoria, to pick up Stumpy the Boar. He is quite a bit bigger in this photo than when we first got him.

Mr D and I took a day off (Mother’s Day) and drove to Mt Selwyn. We walked the Heritage Trail at Kiandra (no photos due to corrupt SD card) and then on the way home, stopped at the Snowy Scheme Museum in Adaminaby.

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Nanna passed away. A sad day indeed.

Lambs and three of our pigs were prepared for the freezer. Another hard day.

The fencing for paddock three was completed and repairs to the fencing at the back of the property were carried out.

June

Winter had definitely arrived. Mr D and I headed off to Bermagui to have lunch with friends. It was -5 degrees celsius in Bunyan however in Bermagui (a couple of hours East of us) it was a balmy 20 degrees.

I made my first ever batch of Cumquat Marmalade with Cumquats off a friend’s tree.

I enrolled to study Bachelor of Arts at Charles Sturt…..because I don’t really have enough to do already (cough).

We prepared for Christmas in July.

July

Christmas in July arrived. It was a lot of work however totally worth all of the effort.

Our son turned 20.

I accidentally left the house paddock gate open and the cows found their way in causing quite a bit of damage and leaving sizeable momentos in their wake.

In the same week, strong winds sent my green house flying along with all of the seedlings in it, we received quite a lot of rain and a tree fell on the paddock one fencing.

More lambs. Three lambs were lost to a neighbour’s dog and one to the Eagle.

The two Sows adjusted to life without the boys.

August

Lemons.

Shanks attempted to boss the cows. What was he thinking?

September

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Seedlings.

Moving day for Stumpy to his new accommodation.

We borrowed the bull from our neighbour. Hopefully we will have calves in Spring 2017.

The neighbours started their annual burning of paddocks.

Our nephew, Joshua, turned 21 and we travelled to Sydney to help him celebrate.

October

We took a day off and headed to Floriade in Canberra.

Mr D and I celebrated 25 years of marriage and spent a night at Jamala Wildlife Lodge within the National Zoo and Aquarium, Canberra.

It was my first attempt at making and decorating ginger bread cookies in preparation for Christmas hampers.

The veggie garden started giving again.

Uni came to an end for the year.

Addy came to live with us.

We prepared five lambs for the freezer.

November

 

We had a bumper crop of Strawberries.

The Lavender flowered and looked glorious.

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We put the first lot of eggs into the incubator only to get one chick due to temperature issues. I shipped it off to our neighbours over the back, Ian and Narelle, as chicks don’t so well on their own and they had chicks of a similar age.

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Lemon Butter was made using our lemons and eggs.

I spent the best part of a week on the Central Coast catching up with family and friends.

Our Little Girl (Sow) became limp while I was away and didn’t recover. Mr D quickly organised the Butcher as there was nothing that could be done.

Mr D sprayed weeds. It’s never ending.

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The Christmas hampers were started…the non-perishable items, that is.

As a result of Little Girl’s sudden demise, we were left with a lot of pork. Some of this was minced and we spent the best part of two days making pork sausages with our friends, Georg and Al.

December

The Christmas tree went up.

 

Our borrowed Bull decided that he wanted to spend time with the neighbour’s cow who was in season. As a result, fence repairs became necessary.

Mr D and I spent a day in Canberra to celebrate his Birthday. We started off with Yum Cha at Ginseng in the Hellenic Club. We then tripped off to Old Parliament House followed by a boat ride around Lake Burley Griffin.

We had our annual Christmas get together with the locals.

Christmas hampers were finished.

Mr D and I celebrated Christmas with family in Sydney.

My brother, Adrian, got married to the lovely Anela in the gardens of Burnham Grove Estate, Camden.

We drove to Tumut to celebrate Christmas Day with B1 and B2.

A bit of rain and warmth and the veggie garden took off.

To finish off 2016, we saw the New Year in with our friends Georg and Al.

Well that’s all of the interesting stuff for 2016. It was a big year and 2017 is shaping up to be the same. Wears me out just thinking about it.

2017. Have a good one!

Mrs D x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home Made Pork Sausages

The harsh reality living on the land is that not everything goes to plan, even despite your best efforts.

If you are reading this post, it is important to remind you that our animals have a very good life and when it comes time to prepare them for the freezer, it is done humanely and they are treated with respect.

A couple of months ago I noticed that our intended breeding sow, Little Girl, seemed to be favouring her back left leg. It caused some concern at the time, however, after a few days it appeared that she had recovered. Two weeks ago, however, the limp was back and within a few days, she was unable to get up. Mr D kept her comfortable until the end.

The decision to prepare her for the freezer was not an easy one, I can assure you of that, and many tears were shed. She really was a gentle giant. Mr D made a phone call to the vet who confirmed there was nothing we could do for her. At first it was thought she had a condition called OCD (Osteochondrosis) however the butcher discovered that she had a broken hip. The two conditions may have been related.

Anyway, as a result of her condition and having to euthanise her, we ended up with a lot of pork as Little Girl weighed in excess of 200 kgs.

Apart from the usual cuts of meat, a friend suggested we have a go at making sausages. With this in mind, we made sure that the butcher boned out several large pieces to put through the meat mincer.

If you are considering making sausages, it would be fair to let you know that it is not a five minute job, unless you’re a butcher of course. The whole process took the best part of two days, with two of us preparing the meat and it’s seasonings on the first day, and then four of us making the actual sausages on the second day; bearing in mind that we were using a domestic grade meat mincer.

Let’s start at the beginning…

By way of preparing the meat for mincing, my friend Ally and I trimmed any excess fat and then put it through the grinder. With 16 kgs of pork mince, our plan was to have plain mince as well as flavoured however, in our excitement, we ended up seasoning the whole lot. Whoops! The mince was then split into four batches and the flavours created were Hmong, Sweet Italian, Polish Kielbasa and Herbed. All of the recipes can be found at honest-food.net under the Charcuterie label.

On the day…

The first order of the day was to taste our pork mince and it’s seasonings just to make sure we didn’t need to add anything. Unfortunately, the saltiness was obvious however, once it’s added, there’s no taking it back (we know for next time). The salt didn’t detract from the flavour however it was prominent.

When setting up your work space, some things that are handy when you are making sausages include scissors (for cutting the casings), jugs of water (to keep the casing on the nozzle moist), gloves and plenty of fridge space.

We began by threading the casing onto the nozzle. The process worked much better if we didn’t do large quantities at once although it meant threading more often. The reason for this is that we found that the casings dried out on the nozzle fairly quickly making it more difficult to feed off as the pork mixture filled the casing.

The mixture needed to be pushed into the machine at a consistent and, what I would call, urgent rate. It was discovered that less mince on the feeding tray worked better as it gave more room to manipulate it. We certainly got a work out pushing the mixture down the chute.

When the mixture started to fill the casing (we were using thick sausage casings), it was important to allow the casing to fill without letting it overfill. This is the part that is hard to describe as it’s a case (no pun intended) of ‘you had to be there’, however we all know what a thick sausage looks like. It also helped to have someone taking the weight of the sausage as the casing filled and became longer. This reduced the chance of blow outs (where the casing splits and mince starts pouring out) and I think, in the end, we only had three blow outs.

Tying the knots in the sausage was much easier with dry hands. To start, only one end was tied. This allowed us to pinch and twist for each sausage and push the mixture along (if required) in the casing to produce a more even product. By the 10th kilo of sausage making, we probably had this down pat. The second person assisting in this part of the process helped to stop the sausage twisting around itself which hindered the pinching and twisting process.

After we’d finished making the sausages, the only other important thing left to do, apart from cleaning up our mess, was to barbecue some for lunch. So, with Barry the Jack Russell supervising, we enjoyed delicious home made pork sausages.

Thank you to Georg and Ally for your help.

Happy sausage making!

Mrs D x

 

Some things to note:

Most of the recipes researched had, roughly, a 4:1 ratio of meat to fat, the above recipes included. We actually reduced the amount of fat and were happy with the result.

Having now made the sausages, I would halve the salt in the recipes next time.

A lot of the research suggested semi-freezing the meat to make it easier to put through the grinder. I imagine that the fat content, if following the recipes to the letter, would have complicated the grinding process as the mixture warmed up, however, the meat with less fat, at fridge temperature, moved through the mincer with relative ease. I also had a problem with semi-freezing, defrosting (as would naturally happen) and then re-freezing.

The sausage casings were purchased from the local butcher. They had already been pre-soaked in water.

Most of the herbs were fresh out of the garden. Unfortunately, our garlic was not quite ready to pick and we used a lot of garlic.

On sausage making day, we were grateful for four sets of hands. Two and even three sets were not quite enough. Obviously you are dealing with a raw and perishable product, so you want to move fairly quickly. With the help of our good friends Georg and Ally, once we got the hang of what we were doing, we were a lean mean sausage making machine.

Allow the mince and it’s seasonings to sit in the fridge for two to three days. Oh the smell….just glorious. This is okay with very fresh pork mince which we were using.

We have since invested in a gas powered smoker to try smoking the sausages. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Lastly, be prepared to laugh a lot. Once you start threading those sausage casings onto the nozzle (I hear snickering already), the conversation goes downhill really quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jamala Wildlife Lodge- An Experience

To celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary this year, Mr D and I spent a night at the Jamala Wildlife Lodge which is located within Canberra’s National Zoo and Aquarium. It is expensive at $1300 (weeknight AUD) per night however it was worth every cent.

On arrival, and as part of the check in process, refreshments were served. It was obvious when you entered the uShaka lodge, which housed the reception area and some of the accommodation, that no expense has been spared. It was stunning!

After check in, we headed off on our first tour of the zoo with Ty, our tour guide. The tour was just shy of two hours, so comfy walking shoes were a must.

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At around 4pm, after our visit to the Meerkats, we were escorted to our Giraffe Tree House. Something that Mr D pointed out that I hadn’t considered, is how unobtrusive the accommodation is as part of the zoo. Once you’re there however, you are blown away at the level of detail, style and comfort. You won’t want to leave.

The highlight of our adventure was feeding Humberkhali (Hummer), the resident Giraffe.

After feeding time, we were left to our own devices. We sat on the verandah and enjoyed the view over the Scrivener Dam. There were feed troughs attached to the building that had been filled with hay by the keepers. This ensured that Hummer continued to come and go until it was time to head to The Cave for dinner. You don’t have to hang in your room though, you have the option to continue exploring the zoo.

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Canapés and drinks started at 6.30 pm in The Cave. We walked however you can catch the bus. Walking, of course, means you get to see some of the animals that didn’t come out earlier in the day….if you’re lucky.

 

I have to admit I didn’t take any photos of the food…whoops (well, just one of the bread and dukkah). When you’re sitting next to a Lion’s den, it’s easy to work out where the camera should be pointed. I can tell you, however, it was five courses of deliciousness and the staff were amazing!

We were lucky enough to help celebrate Jake, the white lion, and his sister Misha’s 9th birthday while we dined. My photos don’t properly represent the size of these animals however I can tell you they were huge. You can see that the Hyenas felt they were missing out and a birthday kiss from Misha had Jake cringing.

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The next morning we walked up to The Cave for breakfast which was served at 7 am. There was plenty of choice, hot and cold, including gluten-free options. With half an hour still to kill before the 8 am tour, Mr D and I wanted to see some of the animals that we had missed the day before. Fortunately, the Sun Bear and Lions had decided to make an appearance.

At 8 am, we started the morning tour with Millie, our guide. Something that only the Jamala guests get to experience is the new part of the zoo which is still under construction. The highlight here was the White Rhinos. Three big boys weighing in at roughly 1.5 tonnes each. They reminded me of our piggies in that they enjoyed a scratch and tussling for our attention.

The morning tour concluded just before 10 am at which time we were taken back to our tree house by bus, packed up, waited for our bags to be collected and then walked to reception to check out.

Check out time is 11 am however your visit is not over if you don’t want it to be. You have the option to continue exploring the zoo at your leisure.

Jamala was a great experience and one I would highly recommend.

Mrs D x

Tips

If you arrive early, that is before the 1.30 pm check in time, the reception staff will give you a pass to enter the zoo.

There is a lot of walking so wear very comfy shoes.

Smart casual dress for dinner. Mr D and I dressed up a little more as we live in jeans and boots on the farm. I wore black pants and a nice blouse and didn’t feel over dressed. Everyone went to a bit of effort. When you’re drinking Moet and eating Canapés, you want to feel the part. Don’t panic though, some of the guests didn’t change for dinner.

 

 

 

Crowd Pleasers: Potato Bake

I have a friend who loves potato bake. Actually, I have lots of friends who love potato bake however this particular friend (she will know who I’m talking about) always tells me she can’t make it the way I do. Pfft!

The hard part, I guess, is there is no set recipe. Having said that, you only need potatoes, onions, cream and grated tasty cheese and you make it to suit the number of people you are catering for.

I don’t profess to be a creative cook. I will follow a recipe to the letter, the first time, and then modify it to suit our taste and that’s how I get to call it my own.

I don’t think Potato Bake belongs to any one person. My Step Mother made it a lot when I was growing up. Our friend Dave, from Bredbo, makes a version of it. My children make it when they have a crowd over for a BBQ. It really is a throw together side dish, and a delicious one at that.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Potato Bake

Potatoes

Onions

Thickened Cream

Grated Tasty

Yep. What now?

The quantities of ingredients will depend on the number of people you are feeding.

Let’s assume I have 4-6 people coming over for a BBQ. I would use a pie dish unless I was feeding teenage boys and then I would have to upsize.

Peel and slice one medium sized onion and set aside.

Peel and thinly slice 3 to 4 medium sized potatoes. You can always peel and slice more if you need them.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius fan forced. Spray your pie dish with oil. You will thank me later when it’s time for doing the dishes.

Put a single layer of potato in the pie dish, slightly overlapping each piece.

Sprinkle some onion rings over your layer of potato.

Keep alternating layers of potato and onion until you have reached the top of your pie dish making sure you finish with a layer of potato.

For a pie dish sized potato bake, I would use 300 ml of thickened cream. Pour over the top.

You have a couple of options at this point.

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Option 1: Sprinkle with the grated tasty (as much as you like) and place in the oven for 45  to 60 mins.

Option 2 (my preference): Place foil over the top and place the potato bake in the oven for 45 mins. After this time, remove the foil, sprinkle with the grated tasty and place back in the oven for 15 mins or until cheese is melted and is golden brown.

Serve. Enjoy!

Mrs D x

Tips

Place your potato bake on a tray as it tends to bubble over the sides. I hate cleaning the oven.

If you upsize the size of your potato bake, obviously you will need to increase all of your ingredients accordingly.

Stick a fork in half way through the cooking time. Every oven is different and there is nothing worse than eating uncooked potato.

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Use sweet potato in every other layer for a low GI alternative.

Use light cream and light grated tasty to reduce the calorie content.