New Home

Dear Friends,

I am moving to a new host to make things easier. Please hop on over.

I hope to see you there!


Michelle xx


Ensaymada (Sweet Cheese Brioche)

On a recent visit to the library, I brought home a book called 7000 Islands.  The author, Yasmin Newman, writes about growing up in Sydney and being exposed her mum’s Filipino heritage by way of its cuisine.

Getting everything ready.

I started flicking through the pages today to see which recipe I can try, bearing in mind that I needed to fill the bread tin.  I could not have picked a better recipe to start with!  This buttery, sweet, cheese-topped brioche, fondly called Ensaymada, is a real star.  Here is her recipe.

After the first rise.  Cutting the dough into 12 to fit my paper-lined cupcake tin.

Filling the flattened dough balls with softened butter and grated cheese, and rolling them up like logs.

Shaping like snails, and into the tin for proofing.

Swirly dough balls have doubled, ready for baking!

Cooling in tins.  Time to cream the butter and sugar, and grate some more cheese.

Assembly time.  I might have licked the buttercream-filled spoon afterward.  Oops.

Ta-daaa!  Ready to devour.

Eating this today brought back memories from my youth.  I hope you give it a go.  Best with a cup of hot, black coffee and some company to chat with.

The Morning Routine

I am not a morning person.  Up until a few years ago, I would wake up no earlier than 8 am (often much later) and drag my feet all morning until I am sane enough to tackle the day.  It is no wonder I struggled through the first few months of being a stay-at-home parent, and eventually having a school-age child.

Dough on the rise and ready to be cut.

Nowadays, I look forward to starting my day early.  Waking up before the kids are awake is THE best thing since sliced bread!  It means I get to enjoy my cup of coffee in peace, free from the screams and babbling.  It is just the most relaxing, calming moment.


In those first few minutes while I sip my hot drink, I mentally go through everything that needs to be done for the day. Often, it is a load of washing, or some baking that needs to be dealt with. Occasionally it could be other tasks, like calling banks or decluttering the kitchen. It takes no more than five minutes, but it makes all the difference especially when there is a lot to be done and there is an optimal order of doing them. There is something about that time of day that speaks to me gently. The soothing sound of the birds chirping, the neighbours’ car engines purring, the golden sunrise peeking through the blinds in the bedroom window.

Proofing now… Nearly there…

The kids’ alarm rings and then it is time to wake them and get ready for school. The moment everyone is out of bed, I fluff up the pillows and smooth out the sheets. As I walk around the house with toddler in tow, I tie the curtains, pull the shades up, and open the windows and doors. Sunlight fills our home and soon the pot is filled. Breakfast, and lunch for the schoolkid is made, and the kettle whistles softly to let me know that another day has begun.  

Hot bread rolls, ready for the taking.  Now where is that butter knife?

I go through my day knowing that when the sun goes down, my bed will be ready for me — with its sheets refreshingly cool and pillows so soft, offering a respite for my tired but happy self. And tomorrow I start my morning routine again.

Tell me, what is yours?

Simple Dreaming?

I wrote this a few days ago and it has been sitting in my scheduled posts since.  It is amazing what clarity the written word will give sometimes.  I now have a renewed appreciation for our choices, and the simple life.


Like many young Australian families, we are still paying off the mortgage for the home we live in.  Mr Meagre and I started rather late, and because of that we have only just begun the lengthy journey past our mid-30’s.

A typical spring harvest of plant-and-forget garlic and carrots.

We are three years into the mortgage and most days it feels so slow…  like a winding road so tight you cannot see the end of it even if you tried.  Being an obsessive planner by nature, I like having my goals listed down.  Ticking any list, or seeing any “percentage complete” figure has to be right up there in the happiness spectrum for me.  It is weirdly normal for me to have many goals, some of which are very long term (for example, our financial goals 30+ years from now).

However, since “meeting” Rhonda I have been trying to simplify my life. I still remember reading her first book for the first time; that list I came up with about my life goals is still being revisited nearly everyday. Part of living simply, to me, was and still is being happy with what I have and making the most of what and where I am. “Bloom where you are planted,” as Rhonda would say.

The first fruits off our PeachCot tree that has been in the ground for two years.

Which brings me to the question that has been bugging me for the past few months.  Does simple mean being content with our current home and not desiring to move anywhere else?  If I dream of owning a farm “someday”, am I still being true to my simple values?  I love trees — I like seeing them grow, and to me the best trees are the big mighty ones with trunks so wide there is no way to put your arms around them… Where we are now, it is impossible to plant those so I content myself with dwarf netted trees in all sorts of espalier and I keep them pruned to within an inch of their life.  

But this “content-ing” of myself, is it not me cheating?  When I tell myself, I shall do this when the backyard is bigger… or, if only I had the space I would do this or that… That kind of thinking, to me, is definitely not blooming where I am planted.  Or is it?  This is the best place for us at the moment, I am sure, so should I just spend my days bunkering down and start blooming?  Is my dreaming putting a damper on my happiness, and preventing me from living my life the way I should?  Do I need to come to terms with the fact that my values are not what I thought them to be? 

Five Frugal Things

Over at Kristen’s, she talked about her usual Five Frugal Things.  As I had my second cuppa of the day, I began my own list and here is what I came up with.

1)  I made bread.

It was a bit overcast (no free solar power for us) so I decided to let the breadmaker do all the work.  My trusty old Panasonic makes an okay loaf — the best I have found among the handful of breadmakers I have had.

2)  I sliced/diced/grated cheese from a block.

Now I know this sounds strange to some, but I used to baulk at the thought of preparing cheese myself.  I would buy them cubed, shredded, sliced… but never in blocks.  Luckily I have overcome my laziness (at least for that part of my life) and now only stock up on blocks of cheese.  It is, after all, the same cheese for a fraction of the cost.  And a little elbow grease would certainly not hurt me.

3)  I saved a plum pit to propagate.

Mr Meagre has been bringing home some excellent black plums so I have been saving the pits from the children’s fruit for future rootstock.  I usually keep them in pots on the kitchen windowsill until they sprout, on the heatmat in the winter, or directly into pots outside in the spring/summer. 

4)  I refilled the foaming hand soap bottles.

I think I learned this trick from Wendy.  One part regular hand soap to four parts tap water equals a frugal version of the foaming hand wash refill.  The change is not noticeable apart from the less overpowering scent, and there is one less working dispenser bottle thrown into recycling.  I keep an empty hand soap refill bottle under the sink to mix them well without shaking. 

5)  I made a shopping list.

Here at the Meagre house we try to do a monthly shop, and weekly top ups are only for milk and fresh produce.  Occasionally, I would see something we need on half price special at a certain shop so I check the catalogues for any other items on our shopping list for this month or the next.  This week, the big bags of Australian grown rice are on half price so I will be getting that along with some other things like sugar and pasta.  That part of the pantry should be set for a month or two.

What have you done today (consciously or unconsciously) that saves you money or time?

In the Garden: January

We live in the western fringe of Melbourne, a place with average rainfall in the warm temperate region.  The past winter/spring has been really wet, though.  We are supposedly in the midst of summer at the moment, but occasionally we are still getting cool, spring-like temperatures.

This is what’s in the garden at the moment:

Braided garlic ready to use.  On the left:  California White;  on the right:  Tasmanian Purple.  These were harvested in December.

Immature fruits on the grafted Dwarf Ichikekeijiro Persimmon.  It has been here for just two winters.  I thought it died last year because it lost all its leaves even before autumn started.

Our first pomegranates!  These ones are a variety called Elche.

Baby White Adriatic figs.  I can’t wait to pick them.

Tiny olives on our one-year old tree.  We only have one kind (Verdale) but the neighbour’s tree must have pollinated it.

Growing the West Indian Lime and Custard Apple (African Pride) from seed.  Lychee seeds from Aldi are in the background (left), and some apricot seeds are in the middle back pot.  I also stuck some China Flat peach, Black plum, and Kensington Pride mango pits today.  We shall see how they go.

My first successful capsicum from seed.  These are Capsicum Perennial from Green Harvest.  I think I was planting them too late in the past.

Autumn-planted multiplier brown onions are just beginning to be ready.  The white ones are still green.  On the right are turmeric, and ginger in pots.

Very pleased with this rescued lemon tree from the big green shed.  We found it toppled over and uprooted last spring.  A careful repotting and good feed was all it took.  It is now laden with fruit and hopefully we’ll know which variety it is by winter.  The leaves smell like Meyer lemon so my money is on that.

Apple trees I grafted last spring.  These are heritage apples on dwarfing rootstock and I plan to keep them in pots as columnar apples.

How is your garden looking?  Are you getting ready for autumn/winter or still planning to get through the summer?