Monday, November 28, 2011

Substantial raspberries?

I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago where we were commenting on the likelihood of a reasonable raspberry harvest this year. This particular friend I remember, came to a summer party a couple of years ago bearing a huge bowl of her homegrown raspberries with another bowl of softly whipped cream alongside her harvest offering. I'll never forget the simple delight I experienced that day by indulging in some of her delicious homegrown berries and cream and wished (andwishedandwished!) that some day, I might hopefully grow some juicy, sweet raspberries all of my own, just like hers.

While maybe not quite the volume she had that summer, I do feel comfortable in saying that we have raspberries! More than just pickings too, if I may I add. Would I even dare to say..substantial raspberries?

Why yes, I think I would!

The berry canes which are a mixture of thorny and thornless,  line a 'walk' alongside our chook pen. Note that lately the 'walk' has become more of a garden scramble as one attempts to make their way through the rampant growth without getting hooked, prickled or stung by a bee along the way. How I wish we had some girls in the pen now so I could watch them eye off a ripe, tasty morsel as they move in for a peck..

A punnet or two picked each day equals substantial raspberries in my opinion. Substantial, yes I do like the sound of this!

So, my question to you today is...What is your favourite way to eat fresh, ripe raspberries? 

I'm tempted to try some cordial this year but am open to all suggestions and am easily swayed!

I would love to hear what your favourite raspberry delights are...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Claiming the space

Our house is in a state of disarray. This is not at all unusual however this week the state of it really does take the cake. A huge room re-shuffle, with more in the pipelines. My tiny little sewing room became a bedroom for the eldest who had been pining for her own space for months (years?) now. It's small but it's all hers. She loves it. This space has well and truly been claimed by her.

But what of the sewing room?

Tweens no longer needing a room designated to toys (did they ever?), were booted out of the playroom which in turn is now morphing into a craft room. With space for them and I to do our crafty thing. Fantasies of me sewing while they craft are filling my head, while in reality I fear snapping at them as they place their gluey creations (un)comfortably too close to my latest, treasured sewing projects.

We'll see.

I'll try and be good and keep some manners about me. It is a shared space after all. Plus it was all my idea. An excellent one in theory, hopefully it will prove to be so in practice too!

The piano needed to be heaved into another position too, with the plan to sell it.

However, we've kind of become accustomed to it in it's new spot and even though it has a few keys that never seem to hold their tune, I'm quite attached to the oversized beast. Can I put up with skirting around it on my way to the kitchen in the long run?

We'll see.

The garage will not go unsorted this time either with this mammoth spring clean. Imagine our delight when we found a forgotten home beer brew kit in the depths of the clutter! It's hubby's favourite (and makes the best steak and  'Guinness' pies)..Munton's Export Stout, made up to 18 litres with a milk stout booster for the yeasties to feed on. It has a handsome kräusen, too! Hubby thinks I like to brew beer so I can go about spouting funny German words such as kräusen!!  I believe it translates to 'frizzy hair' and refers to the foam that collects on top of the brew as it ferments. He may be right.

We love hearing the air lock bubble vigorously! Does anyone know how hard it is to capture the exact moment in a photo as it releases a bubble? Too funny!

Back to the craft room. It's beginning to take shape. My extensive op-shopped sewing books and gifted and thrifted knitting/crochet patterns are filling the shelves. Soap making equipment, herbs drying, soap curing, sewing machines (yes, I confess to having more than one *gulp*),  plugged in and ready for use..I'm Claiming the Space.

{pin cushion made by the 10yo last year for my b'day}
Kids' shelves are happening too, with sorted out supplies..

A designated paper shelf too! This would've been an absolute delight for me as a kid, I hope they love it as much as I anticipate they will.

In the meantime, amidst the chaos and clutter removal, I find precious moments to begin that treasured new sewing project.. so far sans gluey creations nearby..

I hope it will fit!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Senses plus three

Touching: soft merino 4 ply, the youngest's hair, cherry leaves to check for aphids, emerging seedlings, damp earth and leaky hoses, goat bellies for barrel hugs.

Smelling: eucalyptus soap as it cures, beeswax from a thoughtful friend, a hearty stew pie base, lavender oil.

Tasting: sweet local honey to keep hayfever at bay (hubby is a convert now too!),  Jamie's steak and Guinness pie that took 3 hours to cook, soy milk, juicy mangoes, local strawberries, garlic 'scapes', warm date scones, sweet apricots.

Seeing: lemon and white yarn together  (it reminds me of a gelati!), rain fall, grass growing, ducks dabbling in puddles, spring growth, a goat trimmed willow tree, an empty chook pen, first raspberries ripening.

Hearing: pobblebonk frogs as they call for mates, frequent gunshots which are unnerving, talkative goats, chainsaws, swamp hens calling, kids arguing - sometimes laughing, thunder, ducks being...well ducks.

Feeling: slightly nervous and jittery for no apparent reason, like I could (should) be a better mother, completely satisfied with the clean piles of clothes this week, revitalised (and a touch exhausted), as I make an effort to start jogging, concerned when I think of the eldest going to secondary school next year,  sad and reflective as I think of my dad and feel his absence, encouraged when I look at the garden and see it's growth - comforted as I surround myself in it.

Yearning: to have chooks here again, to have the bedrooms re-organised and de-cluttered,  to make that dress that's been on hold for weeks,to have a tidy car, to have 10 more weeks before Christmas, to keep our kids young for just a little bit longer, to be a better mother.

Loving: watching the middle one sit at the table crafting felt puppets, hanging out the washing, stroking our ancient cat, seeing the goats stay in their paddock after a day of tethering (success!), creating something special for someone else, having a clean fridge, watching the tweens when they are all happy, helping someone I've never met before.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

me-do-dats: analogue giving

Good morning!

I have something exciting to share with you today. Earlier in the week I had an email from Jeannet Leendertse, the creator of a unique new gift giving concept. After having a look at her website I just knew I had to share it here! I'll let Jeannet explain as she will do a much better job at it than I:

me-do-dats: analog giving

When I stumbled on Christine's lovely Slow Living Essentials blog, I knew I had to tell Christine about the project I've been working on: a reusable traveling gift card that gives kindness instead of stuff. A gift card that I believe suits the "slow living spirit."

I am a Dutch graphic designer who moved to the US more than twenty years ago. After my second son was born, I decided to establish my own business, so I could work from home. I design books and covers, which I love. What can be better than designing an package that transfers ideas and knowledge; an object that people can go back to, and often hang on to for a long time!

When I am not designing books I read. Luckily the town library is just a block away. Do you remember when library books had a tag in the front, where it was stamped when you took a book out? I miss that tag! It gave this nice sense that this very book had traveled, had added something to the life of people other than you. There are certainly many advantages to our life being increasingly digitized, but I miss a sense of a more physical connection at times, as I think many of us do. 

For my last birthday, my good friend Rayna gave me a simple token, to carry with me, and a card that said: "lunch on me at the Blue Moon", the favorite local hangout. It was such a simple and lovely present. 

All of this somehow came together, when I imagined how nice it would be if we  could stay away from plastic gift cards this upcoming holiday season; if we could start giving a "real" gift: the gift of time.

This is how me-do-dats came about, as in: "let me-do-dat for you". They are sustainable bamboo cards, that have a nice deed on them, like: "get you groceries", or "feed your cat". They come in a little burlap bag and can be used over and over again. A travel log, on which the name of the each giver is recorded, is included.

I have made prototypes and am now trying to actually produce these cards, through You can order an existing card, or make your very own, and by doing so help me-do-dats production get off the ground.

You can find all about this project (including a video) at and

If you believe getting me-do-dats out in the world is a good idea, please "like" the project. If you can, please "back" it, by donating as little as $1.00 or order a me-do-dat as your next gift to someone. Worldwide shipping is free!

(Kickstarter is an all or nothing proposition. If the project is not fully funded by the end of its running time, the project does not happen, and all backers get a guaranteed full refund.)

Feel free to contact me, if you want to connect, or have any questions about this project. 

Thank you so much, Christine, for letting me explain this project on your blog, and thank you, kind blog readers, for your time and help!

Warm regards,


Thanks, Jeannet! I really believe you have a wonderful idea that will hopefully take gift giving to a whole new level. I just want to let anyone out there reading know that I am not being paid for this post, either in money or products. I really want to help Jeannet reach her goal and hopefully by writing this post, it will help spread the word.

Please click on the links Jeannet has provided to take you to her website and kickstart page where you will find information on how to back her project and as mentioned, please take a moment to Like the project. The video on the website sums up the whole concept beautifully - do take a look. I love the idea that the gift can be 'payed forward' and has a log of previous gift recipients. Brilliant! 

I wish you all the best with your venture, Jeannet.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

This week..

1. Homemade chocolate donuts baked and decorated by the 10yo
2. Friday veggie group kindly 'yanked' my seeding greenhouse plants. Thank goodness too, because it
    cleared the space to put in some tomatoes!
3. The orange tree is in blossom and it smells D.I.V.I.N.E.
4. Ever generous calendulas still being picked and air dried
5. The latest crochet project..for someone very small
6. A power blackout evening
7. Poppies are here..
8. ..with the gorgeous double purple variety being my favourite!
9. Wrapped in Love, a very special quilt made by Oma for the 10yo. Thankyou Oma. xx

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Homemade Laundry Liquid

Yesterday I did something I've been putting off for so long now. I finally got around to making some homemade laundry liquid! After originally reading about it over at Rhonda's and then sighting the recipe again in last month's issue of The Australian Women's Weekly (which I bought for a selfish reason - I was mentioned in the frugal living article that featured Rhonda!), and then seeing it again recently on her blog, I knew it was time I got off my backside and made some myself!

First up I gathered my supplies (which I'm ashamed to say had been sitting in the laundry for some months now!). The only item that needed to be purchased was borax which I found in the cleaning aisle of Coles supermarket.

The recipe looked fairly straightforward and not too time consuming. I had even saved up enough empty milk cartons to hold the liquid cleaner...

(For complete recipe and instructions, see bottom of page)

Below are the soap flakes being added to the water in a pot...

...which are then stirred over a low heat until the soap flakes are dissolved. 

Washing soda and borax are then measured out...

...and added to the dissolved soapy water. It is stirred until it thickens and then removed from the heat.

Here it is being poured into a regular household bucket (9 litres). 

And below, after being topped up with tap water and stirred thoroughly. 

It is then ladled through a funnel into the empty milk bottles...

...leaving a couple of inches free at the top so the liquid can be shaken before use. This is necessary as apparently the solution separates upon sitting.  My solution was a little on the lumpy side which I think could be rectified next time by stirring more thoroughly while the mixture was heating, perhaps adding warm water to the heated soap solution? (instead of say, trying to take sequential blog photos!)

Homemade laundry liquid, total time: 20 minutes approx. Yield:  9 litres
Remember to label the containers. Very important! We don't want people not clued in mistaking it for something refreshing to drink!

I've never been so eager to do a load of washing! I had a small load of whites and a small load of darks and tried both with the new liquid. About half a cup for our greedy top loader was put in. I would estimate using 3/4 to 1 cup for a full load. It performed no better and virtually no worse than my current Aldi brand of powder.  The only noticeable disappointment was that some of my white socks that had been worn while doing gardening jobs still were a bit grubby...perhaps they needed a soak? Or a scoop of oxy-napiwash in the machine as a booster or Sard's soap instead of lux flakes? Either way, I'm quite satisfied with today's results although I think a more informed decision will be made over several months.

I could probably see myself adding a portion of eucalyptus oil to the odd wash too. After bringing in the two loads of laundry and folding them, my thoughts are that I will be happy to keep trying the liquid. Everything except the grubby socks came out just like it had been washed with my previous powder, with the up-side being that there was none of that nasty 'fragrance' smell and the icky feeling on my hands after folding (do you experience this?). This is a HUGE plus for me! The clothes smelled clean and of nothing else except fresh air and sunshine!. Can detergent companies find a way to capture this smell without having to resort to frightening chemicals? I don't think so.

I'm really looking forward to having my family and myself wear clothes that haven't been treated in cripes knows what just to get clean and I'll be interested to see if it improves my daughter's and my sensitive skin (which homemade soap has already made a positive impact on).

Whites in the sun and darks in the shade

What are your experiences with homemade laundry soap? 

Click here and here for Rhonda's posts on homemade laundry liquid and for quantities and method. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday, cloudy and warm

Hello! Have you had a good Sunday?

It was cloudy and warm here today..just right for being outside and not getting sunburnt to smithereens!

I've been on a bit of a sewing binge lately and thought I'd share a few pictures..

First up were a few new pattern purchases that I just couldn't resist. Talking with a friend last week about spending 'leaks'..those little outlets in one's life where unnecessary items creep in and money goes out. Hers happen to be cooking magazines. Mine lately have definitely been sewing patterns. I have another frocky one in the stack but will wait until I've finished it before sharing.

I think spending leaks, within reason, are actually ok. We all need a treat now and then! Life would be very miserable indeed if we denied ourselves those certain things that gave us pleasure all for the sake of being ultra-frugal!!

Gauchos made in drill with Kwik Sew 3433:

Are these not the comfiest pants ever to be worn? I can't wait to put them through their paces in the garden!

And a flowery, springy frock in Japanese lawn from New Look 6022:

It was a little on the 'sacky' side and a few minor alterations had to be done (and re-done..etc!). The sack-factor is still being pondered over..but to be honest, I'm over it!! It is how it is. I do happen to really like the elastic at the's makes it extremely comfortable!

The 10yo has been reading a papercraft book she received for her birthday recently. One of the projects that caught her eye was potato stamping, which she tackled on her own - including the cutting of the spud!

"Watch your fingers!!"  I screeched as I quickly hurried past, so that she could be left to attempt it with her full concentration.

A trip to the market yielded a jar of honey with a portion of the comb inside. A great novelty for the kids - the youngest LOVES it!

My reason for buying loads of honey recently is not that it tastes delicious and that I'm supporting local apiarists, but that it's fantastic for preventing hay fever allergies! Yes?

The eucalyptus infused oil from a few posts ago was turned into a batch of soap...

I'm thinking of it as 'Gardener's  Hand Soap'. 

It's pretty strong on the scent as in addition to the aromatic infused oil, a hefty amount of eucalyptus essential oil was also added. The brown dots are poppy seeds which I've heard make a good exfoliating ingredient...we'll have to see! 

Sunday, cloudy and warm, was a good day to meet with fellow vegie groupies up the top of our local mountain (after some had hiked up, hiked I say!), for a picnic/bbq.

With a little flower chain action too, of course!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The late afternoon garden..

Late afternoon would have to be one of my favourite times to take a wander through the garden.
It's right up there with early morning and after a rain shower. The wind from the day has usually calmed down, if it's been cloudy often the sun will peep out and the bees are still humming, busy to their tune even after a full days work.

Columbines in front of calendulas and potatoes

The greenhouse is seeding like crazy! Beetroot, snow peas, broccoli and radish..I was really tempted to save some home grown seed for sprouting (from rocket and broccoli), but I'm finding the plants are impossible to keep contained while they do their thing. To yank, or not to yank, that is indeed the question.

I have summer crops to sow, you know!

However, I do enjoy the broccoli flowers. The bees love them too! They are so bright and cheerful even if they do tend to take over every possible inch of space..

The young fruit trees are sporting some serious spring-time fashion. Water bottles tied on string. The middle daughter thought it was to slowly give the tree a drink, which I loved the thought of! It's actually a sneaky technique to lower vertical branches and bring them down to more of a horizontal position, in the hopes of encouraging fruiting action. Do you do this on your fruit trees?

An infant pear tree undergoing the bottle treatment. Note: don't overload bottles with water, young branches can snap while smug gardeners are tucked up in bed asleep. Not a comforting sight to wake up to the following morning!

Cabbages are doing well. The white cabbage moths were sighted today so I think it might be time to break out the Dipel (which I've never been game to use, but I've been assured it's safe and organic).

Aphids are feasting on roses.. the presence of this guy..
Does anyone 'buggy' out there know what he is? And does he happen to like munching on aphids? 

Please say yes, please!

We don't seem to have any ladybirds yet. Sob. 

Comfrey is flowering. I'm amazed at how vigorous our various plants are after a dormant winter! Isn't it's flower one of the prettiest you've ever seen?

My old favourite, freckles lettuce, has seeded all through the garden. This one made it to our salad bowl tonight..

And I know I need to trim the sage...but I can't bear to cut it while it's still in flower!
The bees just love it and so do I!

What's happening in your garden, balcony or pots at the moment? And what's your favourite time to inspect the action?