Cheap and Cheerful soup

This blog is called “Cheap & Cheerful Life” because it links up with a couple of (neglected) social media platforms I have. I set up these about 6 years ago when, for a short time, we were on a single income. We were living on the cheap, but I was trying very hard to be cheerful. I’m not sure how well I was doing – maybe others can judge that better – but since then, I have been competing with my local supermarket to dish up healthy meals that are on a reasonable budget.

I made a bold statement the other day to someone where I proclaimed I could feed four people for about $2.50 a serve. Although this is probably true of a number of dishes I cook, I decided to do a costing of the lunch I was going home to prepare … just to see.

While I pondered the cost of an average onion, I recalled an article someone had drawn to my attention recently. It was a discussion about why people below the poverty line buy take-away food. The conclusion was that the initial outlay of cooking utensils was prohibitive. People who are living week to week aren’t going to invest hundreds of dollars on a high-end set of saucepans, or an exotic set of European knives. For this recipe, I’m glad to say it only requires a sharp knife, peeler, chopping board, wooden spoon and a saucepan. It also makes me glad because the fewer utensils, the less washing up I have to do!

Just out of interest, based on these thoughts, I had a look at my local Ikea website to see what a 2018 costing would be for utensils. I only picked Ikea because it is global, unlike a lot of our cheap department stores where these items could also be found, and possibly cheaper. I discovered for about $AUD55, I could purchase two pots and a frying pan, two chopping boards, three sharp knives, a peeler and wooden spoon. This is marginally less than two McDonalds Family McFavourites boxes.

Interesting.

So, what was my super-cheap meal?

‘Minestrone’ soup
(only in quotes, because I’m sure it’s not exactly the traditional variety)

3 strips rindless shortcut bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
400g tinned diced tomatoes
400g tinned kidney beans, drained
250ml vegetable stock
More water, if you want
Pinch or two of salt

In the saucepan, cook up the bacon, garlic and onion. When mostly cooked, add carrots and celery to soften slightly. Add tomatoes, beans, stock, extra water, salt and allow to simmer for a bit.  Serve up and eat 🙂

So … how does this cost up?

At my local supermarket, my costings came in as follows:

Bacon                                       $10/500g …$1.90
Onion                                       $2.00/kg …  $0.30
Carrots                                    $1.50/kg …  $0.30
Celery                                      $3/celery … $0.30
400g tinned tomatoes          $0.80
400g tinned kidney beans  $1.50
Garlic                                           )
250ml vegetable stock      ) $1.00 (generous approximation)
More water, if you want   )
Pinch or two of salt             )

Additional two slices of toast  $3.50/loaf … $0.50 (including a bit of butter)

Now for four people … $6.10 + $2.00 for toast = $2.03 per serve.

Well, if that ain’t cheap and cheerful, I don’t know what is! 🙂

Guten Appetit!

PS I would have given you a photo of a bowl of steaming, hot soup, except for a couple of reasons: a) we ate the soup before I thought about writing about it; and b) I don’t know when I’m making it next, as the weather has suddenly jumped up to the high twenties (Celsius), so we’ve hit the salads!

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A father or two …

Last weekend was Fathers’ day. This has become a bittersweet day for me. My own father passed away almost eleven years ago and left quite a big gap in my life – as a sounding board, as my chief champion and as part of the ‘always been there, no matter what’ brigade.

Kevin was an intelligent man who dreamed of having a daughter named Rosemary and a daughter with long hair. I’m not sure if the two were meant to be one and the same, but it turned out that they were. He later had a dream of his daughters becoming engineers, but that one didn’t come to fruition!

Apart from the fact he couldn’t really sing in tune, he was a great dad. He was there for us, which sadly many fathers aren’t. He drove us to ballet lessons, helped with homework (in a very frustrating way … asking me questions to try to get to the answer) and tried to pass on his incredible and varied knowledge.

I learnt some valuable things from dad. One was that having a good general knowledge is really helpful. Not just to win Trivial Pursuit, or be really good at crosswords, but rather to be able to communicate well with people, whether the topic is personally interesting or not. He tried to teach me about engines too, but didn’t do so well on that front. I feel that this may have been more a problem with the student, rather than the teacher.

He did have some not so great habits though. One was a slight lack of punctuality! (Ha ha! My auto-correct tried to suggest ‘punctuation’ … now that was a thing he was pedantic about!) Now, where was I? Yes, punctuality … the man was even late to his own funeral! Although as a spoiler to a good story, it was really due to having a last minute change to the chapel at the cemetery, because such a large number came to pay their respects.

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Fourteen months later I met another tall, dark, handsome man. I always say he got me when I was vulnerable, but the truth is he had me at hello.

With him came a new dad. It’s nice to have a father figure back in my life again. There aren’t loads of similarities between my father-in-law and my dad. They’re both males, and they both love me unconditionally, which makes most other comparisons not really worth bothering about. And it gives me the chance to learn from life experience again too.

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We spent a really nice day picnicking at our favourite Mt Lofty Botanical Gardens with family for Fathers’ Day. It was a new place for my father-in-law, and I suspect he loves it as much as we do. It certainly is on the agenda for when he visits again.

In the end, despite all the blah about fathers needing new lawn-mowers, and who knows what else for days like this, it really is about showing appreciation for what our fathers have done for us, taking the opportunity to spend some quality time together and making a treasured memory. And that we did 🙂

What a difference a day makes …

Today, four years ago, my life changed.

I can think of several occasions in my life when one day has turned into a game changer. Today is the fourth anniversary of one of the bigger ones, in fact probably the biggest.

I got a call from Tony’s phone, but it wasn’t him. It was one of the work safety officers.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “Tony got a hit to the head. He blacked out but he’s conscious now. We’ve made arrangements for him to get airlifted out though.”

Understandably, I freaked out.

“How did that happen?”

I don’t remember the exact conversation from there, but it turned out that the excavator bucket had hit the side of the dump truck Tony was driving (due to having a ‘respite’ night). The steel frame of the cabin had rolled with the punches and hit Tony on the forehead as he looked out the window at the side mirror.

Little did we know at the time, it was not just concussion, but would later be diagnosed as a traumatic brain injury.

Traumatic brain injury. I didn’t know much about that at the time. My experience of blacking out was, and is still is, a big fat zero. But believe me, I’ve learnt a lot!

As time has gone on, we have moved through various different parts of state and federal legislation. I have become not just a full time worker, but a full time carer as well, which has been a new challenge

We have shouted and cried more often than I care to remember, but most of all we have had to learn to adapt – adapt to a new environment where brain injury is not understood by many of those we know, and where for Tony, life has been a struggle while he tries to adjust to the ‘new’ him.

We have turned into people who appreciate the simpler things in life while we try to live carefully.

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But at the same time we try to have a giggle a day. After all, laughter is good for the soul, we are told, and I firmly believe it.
I am also told that people with brain injury often improve and I hope this is the case with Tony.

I’d like to put it out in public that I am married to a man I am proud of – for his continuing tenacity and how he just keeps on trying, regardless of how much it hurts. He tries for me and for us, and this brave face inspires me to keep fighting for him and with him.

“It ain’t easy”, to quote Liamoo, (in a song not quite to my normal taste), but if this has taught me one thing, it is that I need to hang in there!

So, for all you out there who are doing it tough, I hope you can find the strength from someone or something, to hang in there, and get to the other side.

 

Today’s photos are a beautiful rose outside our front door from last month and the machine that caused life to change.
And here’s a song link, if you were wondering … https://www.letssingit.com/liamoo-lyrics-it-ain-t-easy-jqkpjcz

Got a second?

So I’m at the football again, (I desperately need therapy), and it’s half-time. This is a time at the game where I get to ‘time out’. I survey the crowd, have a giggle at the little Aus-kick kids trying to emulate their favourite players and look at the heritage-listed scoreboard.

Today the old scoreboard clock has stopped. On the many occasions I have been to the Adelaide Oval – for football, cricket, concerts, and even our wedding reception – I have decided that the clock is only started at match times. So today, either someone forgot to start it, or its 107 year-old batteries have conked out.

But you guessed it … it got me thinking. Thinking about time and how I fail, more than frequently, to take time out. I read all the stuff that talks about re-filling your cup, about mindfulness, about looking after yourself so you can look after others … and I’m totally rubbish at all of it. And you know what? I’m beginning to look like a frazzled, old lady; frantically wishing that time would stand still, just for a moment.

There are places where time does seem to stand still. Funnily enough, they seem to me to be places of nature … the beach, a forest, on a mountain, or in a beautiful garden. But time also has a funny way of speeding up when you’re having fun or having a good sleep. Oh yes … time goes way too fast when you’re in happy dream world!!

We know each second ticks by evenly, and yet our perception of time varies so much on our circumstances. Time, when you’re bored, drags on at a snail’s pace, but in contrast, I have a dear friend who quite possibly doesn’t have enough time left to do all the things she wanted to do in her life.

There is much truth in phrases like “make every second count”. Out of curiosity, I did a GoodReads search for quotes about time. There were so many nuggets of wisdom and profound thoughts that I wish I could quote all of them, but instead, I’ll leave you a link and contain myself to a few which struck me as particularly lovely.

From Jorge Luis Borges: “Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.”

From Psalm 90:12: “Teach us to number our days, that we may acquire a wise heart.”

From The Memory-Keeper’s Daughter: “You can’t stop time. You can’t capture light. You can only turn your face up and let it rain down.”

And lastly from the ever-wise, optimistic Maya Angelou: “This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before”.

Have a wonderful day!!
https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/time

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today’s photos are: a busy bee down the road from my house last spring (Sept 2017) and one of our wedding photos at Adelaide Oval, courtesy of Lisa Bailye, 2011.

Cuppa anyone?

It’s the season of sunshine and daffodils. “What?” I hear you ask. “Don’t you live in the Southern Hemisphere, where the end of May heralds the start of winter?”

And yes, this is very true. It has been unseasonably warm through May though. So much so, that on Mothers’ Day, we were thrilled to see our frangipani flowering for the first time. (photos here for your viewing pleasure.)

 

But we don’t have any daffs. I’m not such a fan. It seems I must be a bit unique in this because they are wildly popular for Daffodil Day – a Cancer Council Australia fundraiser, as well as being used as their emblem.

I was reminded of this on Thursday as I threw together ingredients for biscuits – my contribution towards our building’s annual “Biggest Morning Tea” – another Australia-wide fundraiser held by the Cancer Council.

Most of the food is homemade, but there sometimes is one who tries to pass off store-bought as their own. This year, one cheeky fellow almost had the organiser fooled that he’d baked his own cake, until another tea-drinker said she’d seen the packaging. We giggled, but at least he had brought something to share with us.

Businesses and community groups join together with plates of goodies and their best teacups or coffee mugs to raise funds to beat cancer.

I don’t know a family who hasn’t been affected by this insidious disease. Our’s has been. In fact, today is the fourth anniversary of my aunty’s passing away. And she is one of at least four close family members we remember throughout the year, let alone our friends, their family members or work colleagues.

The Biggest Morning Tea has been going in Australia for 25 years this year, over half my lifetime. The funds generous tea drinkers contribute are directed towards programmes that assist cancer patients and their families, as well as to cancer research.

 

For the sake of families suffering now and in the future, I am more than willing to raise a cup to help … and to share with you my biscuit recipe that is quick to make … so you too can confidently offer to make a morning tea contribution.

PS my husband advises you to forget the cooking – just eat the mix 😊

Burnt Butter Biscuits (naturally not any diet-friendly)

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C
125g butter                –  melt the butter in a saucepan or in the microwaveimg_5691-copy-e1527292250799.jpg, allow to cool
½ cup caster sugar   –  add the sugar and mix together
1 large egg                  –  beat the egg into the mix
1 cup SR flour            – add the flours and mix in
½ cup plain flour

– spoon out mix onto baking tray to walnut sized blobs
– top with half a blanched almond or a glace cherry
Cook for approx 12-15 mins (or until golden brown)

These are Australian cups, so 1 cup = 250 ml; ½ cup = 125 ml

Lest we forget

I’ve been exploring around the Word Press website and it amazes me to think there cannot be a topic on this globe that isn’t covered by one (or many) blogs.

One blog I read said that new writers should write every day for the first month. Hmmm, I think I missed that boat. Also, I should have a consistent theme, or direction. Somehow, that isn’t quite happening yet either. But I promise when TAFE (study) is finished, and this year of upheaval is over, I will resume my life of supreme calm, and provide thoughtful, logical and similarly themed blog posts.

In the meantime, my thoughts go to the events of the past week. Wednesday 25 April, to be exact. This is a day full of poignancy for both Australia and New Zealand. I’m not so familiar with NZ history, but when the First World War broke out, Australia had only just joined its penal colonies and colonial-settled states as a federated nation in 1900. Fifteen years later, they joined the British Imperial Forces to fight her battles in Turkey and then along the Western Front of France and Belgium.

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Horrific losses of life occurred during this war to end all wars. The world would never be the same and by 1918, Europe’s land lay battered and destroyed.

The ANZAC spirit of mateship and facing adversity was defined in this war – where the Australian and NZ soldiers were shot down as they landed on the beaches of Gallipoli at the foot of steep cliffs. Now the Turks and Australians are friends, showing that on occasions, time can eventually heal some wounds.

Two years later – to the day – the Australian soldiers fought to save a little town in France called Villers-Bretonneux. As a result, the French (particularly in that area) remember Australians with a great deal of gratitude.

Back home, military and civilian alike rise up in the darkness, to make their way to dawn services, to stop to remember – not to glorify – but to show their thanks. It is not just for the soldiers who fought then, but also those who have fought since to protect our nation.

Many of us go to remember. Why? Because those thousands of names listed on war memorials in France, Belgium and towns and cities throughout Australia, as well as those who came home, scarred and damaged, are family.

I am not alone in this. In WW1, one of my great-great-great uncles fell on the way to Passchendaele. My great-grandfather served in the Field Ambulance on the Western Front – something I am especially proud of – that he helped those in need, rather than being part of the cause of losses in other families His son went to El Alemein in WW2 and lost his life there. My grandmother never really got over the loss of her brother … so much so that in the last few months of her life, it was him she spoke most often of calling her.

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In my travels I didn’t make it to these places. One day I might. I would like to see these places of historical significance – both personal and global, and to pay my respects to those who laid down their lives for others.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
(John McCrae)

Lest we forget.

 

Peace and serenity

So today got off to a cracking start. It is the end of daylight saving and last night in eager anticipation, I reset all the clocks – the wrong way. This turned out to not be so bad after all. Since we are actually putting the clocks back, not forward, it was not as disastrous as it could have been.

Earlier, I had declared plans for our Easter weekend should include a picnic, as the weather was supposed to be a beautiful 25 degrees. Perfect. Time to pack a little lunch and head off to one of our favourite haunts – the Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens.

We were married in the Botanic Gardens in the city, but I have found I prefer those nestled in the foothills. Over the other side of Mount Lofty, it is almost like another world. The weather is a little cooler; protected from the beach and its sandy gusts. The market gardens focus on apples, strawberries, cherries and cruciferous veggies (those of the leafy green variety) instead of lettuces and tomatoes. More recently, wineries and boutique breweries are popping up in surprising spots.

DSCN3709 editGiven the temperature difference, the leaves ‘turn’ far more dramatically in the autumn, which provide beautiful contrasts with the pines and gums that surround them. Unlike the garden in the city with its pavilions housing fascinating plants – and in fact buildings of architectural significance themselves – these gardens are relatively new and have entire gullies devoted to species of plants.

I am thankful for the foresight of those early settlers, who established the first of three botanic gardens in my city, with their large variety of interesting plants, 160 years ago. I had supposed, inspired by the diversity of Australian flora, these botanists had set up the city gardens only twenty years into the establishment of Adelaide as a township. But in fact, it was put in the original town plan by the main surveyor, Colonel William Light, right at the start. It just took a little bit of time to find the right place and secure adequate funding.

DSCN3713 edit.jpgBut as we sat in the sunshine today, munching on picnic fare, the peacefulness of the gardens surrounded us. As we heard the kookaburras and small children all laughing, we inhaled the fresh air of trees and flowers. Ah, bliss. “Why don’t you write a blog post about this?” said hubby. And even though you can’t hear the sounds and breathe the air with us, here is a little word picture of our day.

 

Photographs: © Tony & Rosemary Rogers 2018