DIY blast furnace


How to make simple diy backyard blast furnace/forge
Note: This project requires very close adult supervision.

Old vacuum cleaner
Pipe to fit inside vacuum hose
Electrical tape
Safety glasses

1. Build up a base hearth and sides with the bricks- stack them closely together – support the outside by pushing sand against it.
2. Important: set up vacuum to blow not suck. Attach the pipe to your vacuum hose with electrical tape, then push the pipe into a gap in the bricks towards the base of the hearth.
3. Start a small fire inside hearth. Sprinkle on top of fire with charcoal and turn on vacuum on low setting, when fire is able to sustain the extra airflow.
4. Keep adding charcoal from the top – be sure to wear your safety glasses.
5. With parental supervision – add steel rods and sand and practice your blacksmithing – using safety equipment to remove and add steel to fire.



Full of vitamins: vegetable and speck soup


I have been craving vegetables lately, and making a big pot of soup is the perfect way to get lots of vitamins and vegetables into your body. This soup is not a vegetarian version – as I have added speck ham (dry cured smoked ham – you can substitute a smoky bacon or ham hock), you can certainly omit the speck to make it vegetarian – you will just have to add a bit more salt to your taste.

This soup just feels like it is doing you so much good. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand – add turnips, potatoes, tomato, capsicum, beans, kale – anything goes.

Vegetable and speck soup

  • You will need a chunk of speck or bacon or ham hock is good too (or if making a vegetarian version you can omit this).
  • 2 carrots
  • 2-4 Beetroot (2 if small – 4 if large)
  • 3 Sticks of celery
  • 3 Small onions or 2 large ones
  • 1 Fennel
  • 3 Leeks
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 3-4 Cups of vegetable broth/stock
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Cup of cooked cannellini beans (or a 400g tin)
  • 4-6 Garlic cloves

How to make

Prepare your ingredients
  • Make your stock as per the instructions below.
  • Remove the skin from the speck (or the rind from the bacon) and save it for later – then dice up the speck.
  • Peel and slice the onions, chop the garlic.
  • Peel and dice the carrots and beetroot.
  • Slice the celery and leek.
  • Remove the tough outer leaves of the fennel and dice it.

Make your soup
  • Fry off your speck and onion, add the speck skin/rind too. Add the garlic. Fry it slowly until it begins to caramelise.
  • Add your diced vegetables and stir them into the onion and let them sweat for 5 minutes with the lid on – stirring occasionally.
  • Add your broth to cover the vegetables. Add the bay leaves too. Add salt to taste.
  • Let simmer for about 30 minutes.
  • Serve – delicious. Just feel the goodness. And isn’t that pink colour from the beetroot pretty!


First though you will need to make some stock. You can use some of your frozen beef or chicken stock (that I am sure you keep handy) or you can easily and quickly and cheaply make up some vegetable stock.

To make vegetable stock:

  • Take all your vegetable peelings, carrot tops, celery tops, leek tops, an onion, soft last weeks vegetables and put them all in a pot – any left over vegetables, peelings etc will do). Chop the veg into a pretty small dice – no need to peel them, just scrub them first. add the peelings from the vegetables you are preparing for your soup too. Mushrooms are great in vegetable stock too.
  • Add a little butter to your stock pot and throw in your vegetables, stir them around and then pop on the lid and let the vegetables sweat for 5 minutes to release the flavours. Stir occasionally.
  • Add some fresh herbs (bay leaves, parsely etc – whatever you have handy), some pepper corns and even maybe some fennel seeds and top up with cold water. Bring to the boil and let simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Strain out the soft vegetables, make sure to squeeze out all the juices, then feed the soggy veg to your chooks if you have some or else compost them, and keep the stock to use in your soup. You can use it straight away or you can freeze it for later.
  • Its a great idea to make a pot of veg stock at least once a week with all your soggy veg. Keep a bag in your freezer or fridge where to throw in your wilted vegetables, the tops from leeks, peelings etc.  When your bag gets full – make a pot of stock and store in the fridge for a few days or freeze in batches. Here is another nice recipe to try out too.

Chocolate bean brownie recipe

Ok this is going to sound really weird – I thought so too when I first saw the genesis of this recipe at 101 cookbooks. I made that recipe exactly as it was (except for the agave nectar because I didn’t have any – I used a combo of maple syrup and honey instead) - and it worked really well – was delicious and had a wonderful texture – and as advertised – not a speck of beanie flavour. But because I like to tweak and I because I wanted to make this recipe a little faster and less fussy I changed it a bit – here is my version.

Chocolate Bean Brownies

  • 2 tins of black beans (or one tin of black beans and one tin of white beans) – drained and rinsed and then use a whiz ding to mush it to a pulpy paste.
  • 4 eggs beaten to a light froth
  • 3/4 cup of stevia powder (or a maple syrup and honey combo or agave nectar)
  • 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder mixed into a 1/2 cup of melted butter – make a paste.
  • 2 tablespoons of ground Linseed/almond meal or finely ground nuts/seeds.
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

To make:

  • Mix your pulpy bean paste with the stevia powder, add the nut meal and baking powder and lastly the frothy eggs and use a whisk to mix it all together.
  • Place in a lined baking tin and bake for 30-40 minutes at a medium heat.
  • Leave in the tray to cool and then slice.

This is gluten free and sugar free (if you use stevia), so it is practically a health food. I love making these and giving them to the kids for breakfast – the healthiest chocolate snack you are ever going to find!




Afternoon tea & Madeira cake

I do like a Madeira cake – eaten warm straight from the oven – it’s moist and chewy and light – and oh so homey and delicious. This recipe has a cup of ground almonds added which gives it that slightly chewy texture, and the subtle flavour comes from the addition of lemon rind. Of course I only use real butter and free-range eggs. Here is my recipe – served with earl grey tea in my grandmother’s best china. Lovely.

What you need

  • 180g (6oz) plain flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 100g (3.5oz) almond meal
  • 180g (60z) caster sugar (finely ground sugar)
  • 180g (6oz or 1.5 sticks of) softened butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3 eggs, lightly whisked
  • Finely grated zest of one lemon
  • A little milk (optional)

What to do

  1. Cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy (3 min).
  2. Add the eggs and beat until lightened (1 min).
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder and zest the lemon.
  4. Fold in the flour, baking powder, almond meal and lemon zest until combined (add a teaspoon or two of milk if it is too thick to get a lighter consistency – so it drops off the spoon).
  5. Line a baking tin (loaf or square tin) with baking paper and spoon in the mixture, smooth it down.
  6. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour at 160°C/325°F – let cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out and serve while still warm.

This cake is also really good to serve the next day with cream and raspberries or else keeps well frozen. Makes a great base for trifle too!

flowers for mothers day

Chrysanthemums, from my mothers garden – picked by me. Photo taken with my hipstamatic iphone app.

Chocolate mousse cake recipe for the birthday girl

So my baby turned 11 while we were camping over the Easter weekend and I promised her a chocolate mousse cake when we returned. After much hunting around I just couldn’t find a recipe that I liked the look of and was easy to execute, so I decided to work it out for myself. What could be so hard – chocolate cake base with chocolate mousse top. I turned to good old Delia Smith for her all in one sandwich sponge cake and added a tablespoon of cocoa to make it chocolate flavoured. I only wanted a thin base so I halved the recipe and it turned out just fine.

Then I had to decide on what sort of chocolate mousse to make for the topping, light and delicate yet firm enough to hold its shape. After some research I came across this article which compares 5 different classic chocolate mousse recipes – and the Elizabeth David classic got the thumbs up. However my daughter requested it be light and sweet rather than dense and dark, so I took the reviewers advice and added a wee bit of sugar, I also added a tiny bit of whipped cream too, and used a mixture of milk and dark chocolate instead of all dark – to lighten it even more.

Here is my final recipe:

For the cake base

  • 2 oz (55g) plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2oz (55g) butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons of warm water
  1. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Then put in a mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients and whip for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy.
  2. Line a cake tin with paper (I used the butter paper) and a 7inch (18cm) spring form round cake tin.
  3. Put the mixture in the tin and level off with a spatula then bake for 10 minutes or until the cake comes away from the sides of the pan.
  4. Turn out carefully onto a wire rack and let cool. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes while you make the mousse to speed up the cooling process and firm up the cake base.

For the mousse top

  • 6 eggs separated
  • 4 teaspoons of caster (fine) sugar
  • 60 g pouring cream
  • 180 g of good quality (either milk or dark – or a combination of both as I did here)
  1. Separate the eggs.
  2. Melt the chocolate slowly in the microwave in 30 second bursts until just melted.
  3. Whip the egg whites until light and fluffy.
  4. Whip the egg yolks and sugar then add the melted chocolate and whisk (with a hand whisk) until just combined and slightly thickened.
  5. Add the beaten egg whites a little at a time to the egg and chocolate mixture, fold the rest in carefully to keep it light.
  6. Whip the cream until just thickened and then fold in to the chocolate mixture.


Put the cake together

  1. When the cake base is cool, place on a plate and place the ring form pan back around the cake (without the base) line with baking paper.
  2. Pour the mousse in over the cake base and place in the fridge to set for 3-4 hours.
  3. When set remove the spring surrounds and the paper and decorate with curled chocolate.


A week at the beach

We had a great time at the beach – sketching at the cliff was a major highlight for all of us. So peaceful and awe inspiring.

You should come with us next time – campfire cooking (we made scones in our camp oven on the fire and also made a delicious one pot soups), fishing (Rob caught an Aus Salmon and a Benito and smoked them in his fish smoker), we also went snorkelling and caving and walking and swimming. So much to explore – so much MORE to explore next time. Great place for little kids too!

The campground at Mystery Bay is quite spread out – lots of space to roam and explore.

Freestyling crochet scarf

My 10 year old girl is soon to be 11 and she made a birthday wish list. It was an achievable and good list. Amongst the art supplies, how-to draw Manga and the next book in the Angie Sage Septimus Heap series included a funny request for a Parrot (alive) and Piranha (alive), but at the very bottom of the list was a ‘spotty dotty scarf’. That I can do I thought. So I got my crochet hook out, all my colourful yarn and got to making crochet circles. After about 15 colourful circles I started to wonder how I would put them together. I had an idea in my head but wasn’t sure if it would work out. So after some looking around the internet and on Ravelry I came upon some freestyling crochet designs and so thats what I did. I winged it.

Here is what I did:

Step 1. Make about 20 circles in different coloured yarn (medium weight yarn – medium size hook).
- chain 6
- join chain with a slip stitch to make a loop
- Treble crochet (uk) / double crochet (US) (which I will now call Tr) 12 stitches into the loop
- join with a slip stitch
- chain 3 then Tr into the next stitch then 2 Tr into each stitch after that – total of 24 stitches
- join with a slip stitch into the top of the chain. Tie off – leave a long tail.

Here is a good visual tutorial for making crochet circles

I used alpaca and wool from Bendigo woollen mills.

Step 2. Take 8 of your circles and add a row of white around.
- Tie in your white thread to the tail and chain 3.
- Make 2 Tr into the next stitch, 1 Tr into the 3rd stitch, 2 Tr into the 4th stitch, and so on all the way around.
- join with a slip stitch into the first chain. Tie off, leave a long tail.

Step 3. Lay out your circles in a long line:
- Large circle, small circle, large circle, 2 small circles, large circle etc until you are happy with the design.
- then join the circles to each other using the long tails you left and slip stitch together (about 4-5 slip stitches) and tie off.

Step 4. Crochet around the outside:
- Choose a different colour and crochet Dc [= Double (UK) which is the same as Single crochet (US)] all the way around. When you come to the bits where you have a smaller circle and it dips in, then you will need to stitch in Tr, then go back to Dc again.
- Go around doing this until you are happy with how it is shaping up.
- Block it, press it gently with a warm steam iron and you are done!

Dc = Double (UK) which is the same as Single crochet (US)
Tr = Treble (UK) which is the same as Double (US)

Beef broth recipe {make no bones about it}

We buy our meat from an eco source – its beautiful beef – free from chemicals and certified organic and biodynamic – straight from the farmer. We get it at our local farmers market – I recommend you do the same! When we placed our most recent order we decided to get bones too – they give for free – I wanted to try making beef stock. And oh my goodness – I am doing this again – it might take a whole day to cook – but you don’t have to stand over it or anything. Just spend a bit of time in the preparation, leave it for 6 hours, then spend a bit more time at the end. What an amazing result!

You will need:
Beef bones
1/2 a celery
2 onions
2 carrots
3 tomatoes and/or a tin of tomatoes
Fennel bulb or fennel leaves
5 bay leaves
Teaspoon of fennel seeds
A few sprigs of thyme and sage or other herbs of your choice
Teaspoon of peppercorns
A big pot
A baking tray

What to do:

Step 1: Place your beef bones – chopped or not, into a baking tray and bake on high for 1 hour – until browned – turn over half way through if you like. Save the rendered fat for cooking later.

Step 2: While the meat is baking, chop your vegetables and fry them in your big pot – add a little butter or fat get them started. Fry until soft and a little golden. Add the herbs, fennel seeds and pepper corn and tinned tomatoes.

Step 3: When the beef bones are browned add them to the pot with the vegies too and cover the whole thing with water. Let simmer slowly for 4-5 hours. Skim the fat off occasionally.

Step 4: After 5 hours – remove the bones from the broth, strain the vegetables out with a sieve. Then strain again with a finer sieve or even a muslin cloth for super clear broth.

Step 5: Leave the broth to sit in the fridge overnight, remove the rest of the hardened fat from the top of the broth (you can keep this and use it to cook with later if you like – its excellent to fry meat). You can now freeze the broth in batches, use it as a base for soups, sauces, stews and casseroles.

Crochet blanket efforts

Lately I have been lovely the up and down and round and round of simple crochet blankets. I have almost finished the hexagons – - do you remember when I started it? I now have just another round to add on and then some ends to weave in – but it is on hiatus as I made a silly mistake and had to rip out a whole heap and so I moved on to other things – I will get back to it – but in the meantime it is well loved on my daughters bed. I used the pattern by attic24 – but toned down the colours a bit – and since then I saw this grey hexagon blanket post at Rosa P - and love all that grey.

I also have nearly finished my Granny stripe blanket – well I could have added more rows but was getting sick of it – also I decided that I hated the yellow and just couldn’t go on. I still need to edge it and weave in a few loose ends – but it is otherwise done! Everyone loves it though. I used Bendigo wool and alpaca as usual – I really do love that stuff.

Now I am starting a ripple blanket - just doing a mini one to begin with to see if I like it – then I might do a bigger one later. I am using softer colours this time around – I am still in love with grey and am adding a creamy white, this beautiful two tone grey/blue and a fun minty green and soft fluffy mauve. Again a mixture of alpaca and wool from Bendigo Woollen mills.

I seem to be a bit mad on Attic24 patterns – but I like them because I am just a newbie at crochet and I need the visual instructions that she provides – really easy to follow.

advertise here Get Action Pack Issue 2