Pork & Fennel Sausage rolls and The Arty Farty (not so) Picnic Party

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We recently had the girls birthdays (they are 2 yrs and 1 day apart) and I went all out with fancy cakes and decorations and a themed party. Mini of course (threenager) called almost all the shots, we had an Arty Farty Picnic Party theme, with rainbow painty decorations and a fancy cake for each girl. It was planned to be at the Farmhouse but the weather had been/is awful and our beautiful lawn was not so perect for picnicing anymore. Luckily my Mum agreed to host us at her beautiful home.  It was a really great day with lovely friends and family and the sun shining down on us at my parents house. Tiny had a picnicy cake with a duck (shes obssessed) and Mini had an Arty cake with her name written in cheesy looking fondant (her obsession – cheese). The girls got spoiled with lots of love and gifts galore and …….the reason for this post…….I made excellent sausage rolls that were gobbled up by all, with many requests for the recipe.

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Im not normally one to share food photos or recipes. Im NOT a foodie blogger (though I do grow, eat and enjoy food), I used to be a craft blogger and it seems (much as I hate to admit it) Ive morphed into some sort of reluctant Mummy Blogger.  I promise I wont share too many Kid/Food/Parenting posts!

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I started making these years ago and have just about perfected the recipe. Inspired by a British Bakery I used to live near who sold something similar. So here it is, for family and friends, near and far……..my british bakery inspired Pork and Fennel Sausage rolls recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 gloves of garlic (finely diced)
  • 1/2 a white or brown onion (finely diced)
  • 1 carrot (grated)
  • optional – 1/2 Zuchinni (grated) or 2 sticks of celery (finely diced)
  • 1 beaten egg (Use less if your using Zuchinni)
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 500g pork mince
  • 2-3 teaspoons of fennel seeds
  • 2-3 teaspoons of mustard seeds
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry
  • sesame seeds

Mix all the ingredients together by hand making sure its all mixed well through. Add extra breadrumbs if it feels too dry.

Lay a sheet of pastry on a flat surface. Cut sheet in half horizontally. Spoon 1/4 of the mince mixture down along the long side of one pastry half, shaping mince into a long sausage shape. Brush opposite long edge with a little egg mixture
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Roll up pastry to enclose filling, with the seam side down. Brush top with any left over egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Cut into the sizes you like (2 large rolls or multiple smaller bite size pieces) . Place sausage rolls, seam side down on prepared tray, 2cm apart. Repeat with remaining mince mixture, pastry and eggwash.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
Best served with HP Sauce for authenticity!

 

Greenfields Farmhouse & our little Croft

So heres the story i’ve been wanting to share most of all.

Our Croft and Greenfields farmhouse. We arrived here just over a year ago, this big old house kind of chose us at a time when we really needed the space. I was 6 months pregnant with Tiny and prior to getting pregnant we’d been considering a move to the Sth Coast for cheaper living and greener pastures. Sydney is our home and always will be but its getting more expensive by the day and if this old farmhouse had not found us we would already be in the same situation as many of my friends currently are…………….looking for a family lifestyle at a cost they afford and ultimately moving away.

We had always dreamed of a fairly simple lifestyle for our family, although we both grew up in what is now a pretty wealthy area, back then it was a village, a beach community that had a lot of soul. We dreamed and recapturing that lifestyle for our children and we have been lucky enough to find some of that here. A slower pace of life, a community we could connect with, room to breathe and most of all room to grow……room for our girls to grow and room to grow my own food.

Ive always had an interest in plants, I tried balcony gardening for the many years we lived by the beach but with little success. Some herbs and stawberries, rocket and other leafy greens but nothing you could really call a garden, so my excitement at having so much green space to play with was hard to contain!

Contain it I must though……first I had a baby to meet and the choppy waters of newborn plus toddler to navigate.  We didnt get started on the garden until Tiny was about 5 months, up untill then we’d been busy dealing with family health issues and fixing the house up with a few much needed improvements and additions. A wood shed, a chook shed, fly screens, some serious cleaning and a bit of kitchen remodelling (I’ll take you on a house tour another time). Once that was done I was straight out the back, sometimes with Tiny strapped to me, pitchfork and shovel in hand, determined to muddle my way through.

I followed my instincts, got my hands deep in the soil and it was good soil, worm rich, dark and loamy. I had free manure from the stables out the back and plenty of straw to dig in , and so we set about building the first Veggie patch. Im still muddling my way through, I planted our Spring crop far too late but we had tasty salad greens every night, plus onions, fresh herbs, fennel, kale, carrots and silverbeet then in November I started planting for Summer. Tomatos, basil, zuchinni and cucumber all started by seed.

I accidentally pulled out the zuchinni seedlings in a fit of weeding madness (not having ever seen one before!)  but the basil is still going strong as are my 10 cucumber plants (its the only veg my threenager Mini will eat). Sadly the incredible patch of juicy almost ripe Tomatos were consumed from the inside by fruit fly larvae and I had to destroy them, but some random cherry tomatos have sprouted in the new bed we added recently so I may just get one last taste of Summer before the season ends.

Currently the patch is under takeover by the Pumpkin vines…….these (along with my failed tomatos) have been my most frustrating grow so far. I have 4 plants climbing everywhere but the female flowers are few and far between and the ones that are flowering dont seem to be getting pollinated, despit the thousands of bees and other insects around. Ive taken measures and hand pollinated a few this week, so im keeping a close eye on those. Oh and we got chickens for the chicken coop! Named Peck Peck and Parmigiana both a blessing and a curse, they have made themselves right at home and already pissed off the neighbours by wandering out of bounds. They also occasionally annoy the crap out of me too but mostly I forgive them because they clean the floor for me after the kids have eaten. Also chickens are amazing at keeping down the tick population!

Autumn planting has begun with Broad Beans, Peas, Wombok, Onions, Dill and some late Capsicum and pepper seeds. The (as usual) late planted Giant Sunflowers are almost ready to show thier shiny faces and some baby Beetroot and Cos Lettuce seedlings seem to be standing up to the daily thrashing the chickens give them as they dig through the empty spots in the patch. Im hoping for a bountiful cooler few months ahead.

I went to buy some seedlings and seeds the other week and mentioned to the check out chick (because im seriously starved for adult conversation that I will try to chat to just about anybody) how excited I was at being able to spend money guilt free as I knew that ultimately it would feed my family and save me money. She looked at me and said “Gee you must know what your doing then!”………”Nope” I replied “Im just chucking them in the ground and seeing what happens”and truly it feels like thats all im doing. I may have pulled up some grass and fertilised the soil, built some structures but really all im doing now is watering and feeding them and watching them grow. It really is that simple and I wish everyone could know the joy of growing real food.

My Croft is like heaven to me, the happiest place on earth. Stepping through the fence into all that green feels like taking the deepest breath and being renewed. I can be out there for hours and not get bored, pulling weeds in the hottest sun and sweating rivers as I do is pure joy, checking my babies for new growth or fruit to harvest makes my heart sing and my permenantly dirt stained fingers remind me daily of where Im being pulled.

 

SLEEP

 

My mini slept in this morning……I feel I have the right to be a little bit smug about that as it happens so rarely.

Full disclosure….we have a king size + side car cot “family bed”. Mini starts the night in her little toddler bed but only with someone (mama) snuggling her to sleep…..then at some unknown hour of the morning she wanders in, climbs over dad and snuggles in between us. She has never been a great sleeper, never had really obvious tired signs in her infancy, hated sleeping by herself and although we started “sleep training” at 5 months old, between teething, illness and developmental changes, it got lost from our routine every time and each time we tried to “train” her again. I think 8 times in total before I gave up and did it my/our way and stayed close by her side. I still regret each and every time we did it and am putting it off with my Tiny out of pure dread!

When Tiny was on the way I decided I couldn’t do the bed battle again and have co slept with her in a side car arrangement since birth (and it has been SO much easier as a result!). I love waking up to my girls in our bed and I know hubby does (mostly) too. You cant help but start the day with a smile when Tiny wakes up and giggles at you with her stupid goofball grin.

But still, sleep is something I crave. With a newly teething 10 month old and the mounting pressures of work/home life, I have lately felt my waking hours increasing and the opportunities to induldge in restfull bliss have been evaporating before my eyes.

It should tell you something that I think of sleep as an indulgence. Sleep is my crutch, my favourite drug and when sleep evades only large amounts of coffee will do. But what to do when you cant get enough sleep? When you try to nap and life gets in the way? When your kids dont want you to sleep in and make it loudly known? When you dont have a choice but to stay up late working into the evening hours because your day is spent following the orders of an almost threenager (which is almost as exhausting as sleep deprivation itself) who threatens a melt down every time you suggest the idea of doing some work during daylight hours…………….phew, its a touchy subject with me. Then when my head finally hits the pillow, its filled with thoughts of tomorrow and the coming week, my childrens needs, my wishes for my husband and myself and dreams……well dreams are hard to come by, and then even I need some help to sleep. I put my white noise on, cuddle George my soft toy, and drift off to the sounds of a thunderstorm and visualisations of myself in a cosy cabin, by a lake, in front of a fire, during a torrential downpour……..just me and a book and REST.

So when my Mini says she needs mama to fall asleep, sometimes im thinking of all the things I need to do so that I can go to bed, but most of the time its A OK with me.

Because if I find it hard to switch off at the end of the day and still need George, and rain noises and my comfy knee pillow and the fan at just the right angle and visualisations (and sometimes even a sneaky 1/4 sleeping tablet)……..then how can I expect my 3 year old or my 10 month old who are both still going through huge changes to thier bodies and minds, to simply drift off to sleep, alone, in the dark, with no comfort and no mama.

I simply wont do it this time!

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Enchanted Garden

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We celebrated New Years Eve with a very special event in the city this year.

My first daughter Mini was born with hearing loss and we attend an Early Intervention centre  (the Shepherd Centre) weekly for speech therapy and education. Through them we were offered tickets to the Lord Mayors Picnic, an event put on by the City of Sydney for special needs children and thier families. Set in the lush Sydney Botanic Gardens, this years theme was Enchanted Garden and we had so much fun playing dress ups together! It was an incredible evening and so much work had gone into keeping the kids happy and entertained with a live show, music, huge tents with activities, games, stories and face painting. At 9 pm we were all led down to an incredible viewing spot for the family fireworks, right next to the Opera House!

Poor Mini was a little overwhelmed, with her hearing loss she often finds noisy outdoor events very hard to concentrate in and its difficult for her to focus on individual sounds amongst the cacophany of noise that surrounds her, I think she had the most fun travelling in to the city on the train, listening to the loudspeaker annouce each station name and repeating it to me with great pride!The face painting was incredible and well worth the long queue and I cant say enough about the enthusiasm of the Rovers and Kings Cross Bikies who were the official helpers for the night!

We are feeling pretty lucky to have been included in such an incredible group of families and grateful to be on the outer edge of the special needs spectrum. My heart went out to some of the families there, they are true super heroes and probably consider themselves very privileged to care for some pretty amazing kids. Like the young boy we sat next to for the fireworks…….he was wheelchair bound with cerebral palsy but his face lit up at the fireworks and he delighted in Tinys undivided attention before the show……the father’s joy at his sons excitement still has me on the verge of tears. Thank you @cityofsydney & @clovermoore. My enchanted garden fairy had the best time!!

 

A Very Croft Christmas

 

Shared family chaos, noise, gift wrap flying, kids high on sugar, multiple conversations happening while “santa” shouts out names and delivers gifts. Christmas was crazy mental and I didn’t get to really take it all in or take pictures but it was exactly the day I’d hoped it would be and I’m patting myself on the back because I totally adulted the shit out of Xmas!

Last year we visited my in laws in country NSW. I love thier place and the escape it brings but at 8 months pregnant in Australian summer temperatures and having just found out I had gestational diabetes and basically couldnt eat anything, it wasnt my dream Xmas unfortunately. We drove home with me saying I wasnt travelling ANYWHERE next Christmas, not a few suburbs away, not five hours away. I wanted Christmas in my own new home with my own family christmas experience and thats what I got.

Initially I was met with looks ranging from utter horror to mild dismay and amusement, and comments along the lines of ” your house isnt exactly organised” to ” but Nikki we like a nice Christmas with a nice Christmas table” from some family members. They came around to the idea eventually however and all pitched it with food and cleaning and decorating. We shared Christmas morning with my sister in laws family and it was everything I had pictured and more. The girls in matching pyjamas, waking up to bikes and presents and then a full day of family madness with grandparents.

I delivered (I believe) on the “nice Christmas table”, dressed with placemats and crackers, christmas bush foraged from across the road and a handmade “chandelier” with pine branches from our property. We had a great marquee that my mum had insisted on buying from Aldi (even going so far as to make my poor father line up in the queue with her), which despite all our initial grumbles, protests and eye rolling actually came quite in handy and will be used again soon!

I tried as always, to put  a handmade touch to my gifting and decorating. I had watercolour paintings, wild foraged blackberry cordial, and succulent planters. I reused bunting I had made for our wedding and strung it in my favourite tree outside with beads, lights and old christmas decorations collected during my days as a Visual Merchandiser. Inside we had our first real tree (which my mum said in a surprised tone looked quite grown up), handmade wreaths, vases of foraged local flowers and the farmhouse has never looked (and never will again) cleaner! It was a very Crofty Christmas and I cant wait to do it all again, although I think now I’ve had my turn the assumption is its someone elses turn next year…………….so the negotiations of who’s travelling and who isnt will begin again. Hope you all had a great Xmas and Happy 2017!

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Community

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Local Eggs

Something inside me yearns for community. A sort of community that doesnt exist in many places anymore, with quirky locals and charming backwards ways, insular tendancies and real neighbours. Ones who bring in your washing for you, or swap produce, local business owners who know you by name and ask about your family.

You see my husband and I grew up in a place like that, in a small coastal town called Avalon, you may have heard of it #Avalonnow. Back in the 80’s (and 70’s in hubbys case) it was just that sort of place. You couldnt go 5 metres without bumping into someone you knew, the local bakery gave away dinner rolls to every child who walked past and the chip shop happily sold you 20 cent worth of chips to go on it. I grew up playing in the local community centre with my bestie who lived there, meeting incredible authentic people and runing round the streets without supervision. Sadly, although #avalonnow is still a beautiful place (in fact I was there today) and holds all my most cherished memories, it is no longer that same small community.

Hubby and I moved on from there years ago, drifting further down the coast until we moved a skip hop and jump inland to our new home……………and what did we find here? Its the community we have been hoping for and its only been right under our noses the whole time! Since being here we have been touched by the generosity of this community. People are constantly swapping and giving away household items, advice and produce. Looking out for one anothers children and the local ammenities and supporting local business, and its all being done through social media and our local community facebook page! We have been given so many incredible things – things we could NEVER have afforded ourselves or given our girls, a cubby house that we are the third local family to own, a swing set , clothes dryer, art supplies, furniture…….the list goes on.

Not to mention the smaller community of people who use the large property we live on, who have fast become our friends and neighbours. The fabricator who has his workshed next door and brings in my washing when it rains, or the old sailor working on his boat who always reminds me to get a hat for me and the kids. The girls down at the stables who coo over Tiny and Mini and offer them rides on the horses and the property “Boss” whose relaxed attitudes towards rent have saved us more than once.

We feel pretty lucky every day to be living in a town like this, tucked away in the hills, pretending to be rural. Where  horses have as much right on the roads as cars, the local library still has shelves of VHS tapes and people offer help without being asked. Local businesses thrive thanks to local custom, kids selling cupcakes and lemonade sell out by midday, strangers smile and say hello on the street and the coffee shop knows our order before we’ve even walked in the door (whats more its bloody good coffee too!)

 

 

Greenfields Farmhouse

So here it is, our little croft, Ive named it Greenfields Farmhouse. We dont know much about it, it was built possibly in the 40s or 50s (the area here wasnt much settled before then) by 2 Italian blokes completely from concrete and was one of the homes on a large chicken farm. Its had its fair share of tenants in the last 50 plus years and we share the big property it sits on with an Adjistment Stables, Fabrication workshop, 3 Caravans, 8 Horse Floats, various junk piles and storage areas, 1 cat, 15 horses, the occasional dog, multiple bandicoots and more rats than I want to know about!

We were offered the house while I was 7 months pregnant with Tiny. We had resigned ourselves to living in our tiny beach flat with the two kids and this offer was right out the blue. The old house was pretty run down when we first looked, but the rent was the same as our tiny 2 bed apartment and the space was just too good to turn down.

Hubby put in some hard work before we moved, ripping out the existing rats nest kitchen and building me a new one from scratch. His multiple trades sure have come in handy here! We painted and cleaned, ripped up carpet and scrubbed floorboards and it came up a treat. Its still a bit crumbly and we havent finished all the flyscreens yet so we share with spiders and flies but we have more space than we know what to do with and the kids are in heaven.

Somehow our dream of having land, growing our own food, giving our kids a community to grow up in and living a simpler life just fell in our laps at the right time, and despite having our fair share of problems in the last year, we feel like a pretty lucky family right now.

I’ll share more in detail in the coming weeks, our projects and upgrades to the house, my vege patch, the chooks and life with out littles in this wonderful new community we’ve found ourselves in.

A Fresh Start

Welcome to The Family Croft, my name is Nikki Croft.

I used to make and sell good things and nice stuff and sometimes blogged. Then I started making small people and since then I havent made much or blogged about anything really. Ive been too busy living a new life as a wife, mother, farmer, cultivator, homemaker and caretaker. Ive missed blogging and I still love to share my photography and the ins and outs of daily life with my family on Instagram, but my former name and blog space no longer suits my life. I still have a Handmade Heart and always will and im sure that one day and perhaps sooner than I realise, I will return to making art and selling my handcratfted whimsys.

Untill that day however I will be sharing our story right here………

You see a few years back I married my Prince Charming and we had a dream together. To have a family and bring up our children in a rural lifestyle or small community. We hadn’t managed that by the time we had our first “Mini” and were still apartment dwellers when we got pregnant with our second (“Tiny”).

However fate smiled on us (somehow she always seems to pull us through when we need it!) and as we were debating to leave our friends and family in Sydney for cheaper living elsewhere, a rundown, beaten up, insect filled, overgrown HUGE old farmhouse landed in our laps. The best bit?……its in a hidden suburb of Sydney 10 minutes from the beach and 30 minutes to the city!

We now have horses over the back fence, chickens in the yard, my vegetable patch is overflowing with goodness plus we’ve discovered a community thats somehow untouched by modern chaos and is overflowing with generosity and kindness!

Lifes not perfect here on our little family Croft but its wonderful all the same, stay a while and share the journey with me here or on Instagram