Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Slow Living 2012 - Month 2

Welcome to Month 2  of the 2012 Slow Living diary - a record to help me keep track of my personal  achievements over the past month. For a detailed description of each category, click here. 



This month saw me cutting an old bird cage in half and mounting it to my bike to serve as a shopping basket! works!  My favourite old jeans that were more patches than denim were cut off into shorts. Tweens' school uniforms were given the once over with repairs for another year of use. I've also been looking at empty packaging containers in a whole new light - saving the handiest ones for my 'ethic' box.

{Prepare} Tween lunchbox snacks were frozen for longer storage life along with several bags of blackberries. I also cooked a big batch of kidney beans and chickpeas and then portioned them into meal size servings to freeze. Tomatoes were also bottled whole and passata style using the Fowlers Vacola.

Healthy, homemade tween lunchbox snacks included corn, bacon and cheese muffins, hummus, oat and apple muffins, banana & oat muffins, crudites with tzatziki, (with homemade yoghurt, homegrown cucs and garlic, yay!).

February saw some exciting, new organic cleaning products purchased from 'ethic'. I've been baking double batches of kiddie snacks while dinner is in the oven thus reducing electricity usage (and my time spent in the kitchen!). My index finger also had a nasty run in with a slamming door so called a comfrey poultice to it's aid...after a couple of hours of intense throbbing it was well and truly on the mend!

Community activities this month included another shopping trip to ethic (and me 'fessing up about the blog post I had stealthily written), biking with the girls on weekends, walking to school some days (half way as it is too far to walk all the way!) and the return of Friday Veggie Group and the local Spinning Group. As I have reason to be at our local library daily, I've been immersing myself back into it's readings on offer..

Currently we are harvesting basil, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, nugget pumpkins, zucchini, eggplant, squash and strawberries.  Foraging on offer this month is primarily blackberries, oh, and of course the neighbour's quince tree.


I finished sewing a wrap around summer dress and a vintage 'pinny' style apron. I'm also knitting up my homespun Bluefaced Leicester wool into a chunky vest/cardi creation. A little present was also finished off but I can't say too much because it's a secret...shhhh!

I've been enjoying reading Organic Gardener and Yarn magazines from the library, Peppermint and I finally have in my hot little hands a copy of Rhonda's book. I also discovered a mind blowingly different way of knitting...the continental method! It's like learning to knit all over again but I can see with practice it will be SO much faster. Why have I not stumbled across this way before?

{Lisbon lemon}

I don't know why I struggle with this one but I do! One easy one this month was meeting Rhonda of Down to Earth at a book signing today. I'm really looking forward to curling up with her book over a big, steaming cup of tea! Oh, and how could I forget...hubby and I celebrated 15 years of marriage this month. We had a weekend fest with dinner out one night and then a trip to Gold Class cinema another. Ahh, and let's not forget the annual flea market which is always loads of fun.. and as it happens every year, I came home with way too many books but that's ok..right?

How has your month been? 


Feel like joining in with your own post in this format? Just leave a link to your Slow Living- Month 2 blog post in the comments section below anytime during this month and I'll include you here! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Random ramblings of late

Of late, we have been eating cucumbers aplenty. They seem to be the only things really happy in our garden at the moment! If only we had some more tomatoes, a few lettuces, a little coriander and a bed of carrots, then, then I would be a happy woman.. I'm not picky, really!

Of late, the bush pumpkins have started to form fruit. Small fruit, but that's fine by me because I, along with hubby will be the only one to eat them..

We have still been eating as much as we can from the garden while we wait endlessly for those tomatoes to ripen. Loads of potatoes, the cutest little eggplants you ever did see, a regular intake of zucchinis (but no glut - thank goodness!), and silverbeet. This week in a spinach pie/Spanakopita. Although a friend and I both cheat when making layers of pastry and filling, just one hefty layer of cheesy spinach goodness, topped with a reliable layer of puff pastry and then baked...a good dinner here, oh yes. Anything with feta, homemade ricotta, free range eggs and fresh garden greenery in it has to be a good dinner, wouldn't you say?

**Spinach pie recipe here. Substitute homemade ricotta for the cottage cheese and add a couple of dollops of natural yoghurt if mixture is on the thick side. Homemade Ricotta instructions here.**

 Our neighbour's quince tree is teasing us with ripening fruit. He kindly rang and left a message to say it was ready for picking..and so one day after seeing to the goats I jumped the fence and loaded up a bucketful to be made into paste/jelly.

I was also sprung big time today while making brownies for the tweens. I decided to use the tempting recipe provided by dixiebelle but while assembling the sneaky, greeny chocolately treat, one after the other they all came into the kitchen to spy me grating the zucchini! Ugh! Why, oh, why are they so ANTI-zucchini?

Of late, I have found a wonderful new opp/thrift shop! It's a little gem tucked out of the way jam packed full of vintage goodness...

$16 saw two bags full to the brim with things I suddenly couldn't live without, including a new/old pinny (apron), a preserving book I've been hunting down for aaaages and around 1700m of vintage sock weight woolen yarn.

Yes, I did measure it! It came in a huge skein, made up of smaller skeins, so I have been spending odd moments here and there winding it using a vintage Singer yarn winder I also picked up at an opp shop several months ago. I find it extremely easy to knit from this type of ball as the thread can be pulled straight from the centre, eliminating Roll Away Ball issue. A huge plus for when one is out knitting in public and the runaway ball invariably heads towards strange men's ankles...

I've also been thinking of the next update for the Slow Living - Month by Month diary..

Month two already to review! Are you thinking of joining in this month? I will post my February update in the next day or two. As with last month you are most welcome to participate and leave a link to your own bloggy update.

I found this little visitor in the greenhouse yesterday, unphased by my proddings with the camera. Cute, eh!

We have had an enormous amount of rain here today.  I hope you and your house stayed dry if you got it too!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Summer wrap dress

A few weeks ago, armed with a voucher to use up at a local craft store (the one that starts with 'L'), I timed my visit to coincide with their half price pattern and fabric sale. Loathe to pay full price in such an establishment, this was a prime example of when you might find me in such a place. I was looking for a couple of summer dress patterns and found a couple of wrap dresses that could make the cut (spontaneous pun not intended, but not dismissed either!).

I came home with two New Look patterns (6349 and 6674). Both extremely similar in design, with one  slightly more involved in it's construction. I just couldn't make a decision on which one to choose so grabbed them both! Deciding to start with the easier dress pattern of the pair, I cut out 6349 that very same day and there it sat, untouched for several weeks. Yesterday however, with a 37c day forecast, I woke up knowing that that was the day to get this little craft room lurker completed and into the wardrobe.

And completed it was!

In just over two hours!

This is a record for me, making a dress in one sitting. This is what happens when a person can't sleep and keeps waking up at uncivilized hours of the morning. A dress is stitched up and ready to wear before the rest of the family has even finished eating their weekend breakfast!

I do like an easy dress pattern...and this one most definitely was...

New Look 6349
I love, love, love the wrap tie that forms a belt at the back of the dress...a little on the vintage side, yes?

It's also comfy. Really, really comfy. Which is a good thing on a 37c day!

I am so happy with how straightforward (and quick!) it was to stitch up, I think I may make another!

Although I seriously doubt that we will have any more such warm days to wear it on.... I really need to get my skates on and start on that second pattern that came home with me that day and cut into the fabric that keeps staring at me from the corner of the craft room..

Thursday, February 23, 2012


It's all about the fibre here lately! It started with a yearning to start spinning's been so long. Too long! Then it continued with a delivery of several bags of alpaca fleece from a good associate. SO much fibre! And it's so, so soft this alpaca fleece. Throw in a trip to an expo with hand spinning on display and the start up of spinning group for the the year and well, what can I say? It was bound to happen..

I was lucky to have acquired a pre-loved second spinning wheel from a friend of my mum's (it seems I have a knack for acquiring pre-loved seconds!). It's no fancy wheel but a workhorse it is and I've discovered it's ideal for spinning the dusty alpaca fleece outside and not dirtying up my special 'inside' wheel...

It's a bit rickety but it does the job and I feel so much better spinning this fibre outside as it really is so dusty. Even with beating and whacking, grass seed picking (although hopefully not too much!) and shaking it's a dusty job. I've been wearing an apron and picking the grass seeds out as I go as I can't stand the thought of washing all of those bags of fleece, inevitably felting them only to comb and card them all thoroughly before spinning! I'm lazy, I know, but life's too short to be painfully fastidious about fibre preparation..

Alpaca as it comes, out of the bag..pretty much straight of the animals back.  So soft!

It has been spinning up like this:

I also delved under the bed and retrieved the enormous bag of sheep fleece I had stored there. It is so meditative to sit and comb small tufts to then spin straight away.. the grease. Yes, another dirty job but at least I can spin this fibre inside. It's just my hands that end up greasy (and wonderfully soft!). Again, the lazy spinner in action...

I like washing the grease out after the strands have been plied together and seeing the twist set in the yarn, plus I actually think spinning 'in the grease' helps me to achieve a finer strand..

The bags from my purchasing over the weekend were popped open to reveal a luxurious blend of fibers within. I'm so looking forward to getting these on the wheel..

Merino, alpaca & silk blend.
I'm thinking a fine yarn knitted into a loose scarf. There is only 50g of each so I need to think very carefully..

I am quite fond of the red sliver and the blue one I have in mind for a gift to a friend. At least this way I can practice on the red before I start on the blue!

And I have finally, finally completed spinning up the 1kg of Bluefaced Leicester from last year. It ended up being quite chunky, around an aran/10 ply thickness and I am thinking of a chunky cardigan for myself, as you can see by the beginnings in the pic..

Bluefaced Leicester, 1kg.  Aran/worsted weight/10 ply approx.

I'm a bit dubious about it's really heavy! Won't I get tired lugging all that weighty wool around on my body? Plus, what if I don't have enough? Would the pattern still work with three quarter sleeves, short sleeves..or even no sleeves at all? Yikes! All things to consider in this hand spinning/knitting world!

By the way, can anyone recommend a good book on felting? I have some alpaca fleece that might be too short to spin and was thinking of giving this a go but have absolutely no idea how to go about it! :)

What have you been knitting/crocheting/spinning lately? Or are planning to?

Monday, February 20, 2012

From the weekend - Seymour Alternative Farming Expo

Over the weekend, we took a drive over to Seymour to visit the Alternative Farming Expo. I had never been and was curious to go. With an extreme case of whiney tween syndrome and hot, sweaty weather to deal with, there was still plenty to amongst the abundance of food vacuum sealers and kitchen gadgets, that is!

I could've watched this wood carving for hours! This carver was one of about four on the go at once..

Inside the craft pavilion I was slightly excited to see a seasoned spinner performing her skill on the exact same wheel that I have! A Sheridan MacArthur (although she was much faster than me! Much faster!!).

And just around the corner, a weaver busy in action. This was the first time I had ever seen weaving being done in person.

My Sister in Law gave me a really sweet book for my birthday recently called The Forgotten Crafts. In it was a tale about a broom maker which I found fascinating, so as you can imagine, it was a thrill to see this craft being demonstrated on the day..

The day would not have been complete without a visit to the alpaca stand (and a pat!)..

So sweet!

..with maybe a purchase or two.. ;)

I was really hoping to get to the apiarist stand and also The Italian Gardener for some vegetable seeds. Unfortunately I just couldn't find them! Oh well, perhaps next year..

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fowlers whole peeled bottled tomatoes

Last week while scouring my favourite fruit shop for seasonal delights, I happened to come across some boxes of saucing tomatoes. BIG boxes of saucing tomatoes. 16 kilo boxes to be precise!

Of course, as you can imagine I just had to bring one of those big boxes home. Jumping in and turning 10 kilos or so into passata, I left the remaining tomatoes in a couple of bowls on the bench with designs in mind to bottle them whole.

Hubby took a liking to them though. Quite a liking!

Every time I turned around he was chopping and slicing those romas into something new and delicious with mutterings about how good they were!

If I wasn't going to be quick, there weren't going to be any tomatoes left to bottle, and my inaugural whole tomato bottling experiment would be shot to pieces!

It was ok, there were still a few kilos left to play with...

After coring and scoring an 'x' in the base of each tomato, they were blanched for around 30 seconds in simmering water, then refreshed in cold water to halt the cooking process...

..after which time the skins slipped off without incident.

It's very satisfying work peeling tomatoes, especially when the skins slide off this easily! Very satisfying!

Keeping a similar technique to my previous bottled fruit sessions, the peeled, whole tomatoes were squished  strategically positioned firmly into the preserving jars and surrounded with a watered down passata. 1/4 tsp of citric acid was added to each 600ml jar for safe acid levels during storage...

Rings, lids and clips were positioned and they were then processed in the large water bath sterilising unit. Actually, to be honest, as there were a dozen jars and they wouldn't all fit in one,  I had two units going at the same time...don't you just love coming across old Fowlers kits in opp shops?!

Curious to try them out, not having bottled whole tomatoes before, I cooked up a jar of them for some pasta sauce this week...

What pleased me most was that the tomatoes held their shape in the jars and were just like the bought variety...only 100 times better because they were locally grown, processed in our kitchen and weren't stored in suspicious, chemically lined tins!

After witnessing hubby's devastation as he returned home one night to find 'his' romas all bottled, I'm very keen to go back to this favourite fruit shop of mine and see if they have any more BIG boxes of tomatoey offerings....

I think I could be up for another tomato peeling session!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekend glimpses and 11 things

{after the rain - the collection from this morning}
{'special breakfast', a regular Sunday feature, cooked by hubby}

{at last!}
{knitting is calling and how satisfying it is to pull out a ball of homespun! The wheel is calling too...soon I hope to get there..soon}
{late afternoon foraging}


Wendy at Urban Homestead South Africa has 'tagged' me so I thought I'd share 11 things about myself...

I am 35 years old

I am a Capricorn

I am a shocking sweet tooth...but you already gathered that from my posts, right?!

I have three mischievous tween girls, aged 12, 10 and 8.

We live in a beautiful area on a peaceful property..although one day I'd love to build an 'eco home' - our house is really dark in winter and dismally inefficient at conserving energy..

My dad passed away last year from was a really tough year for him and the family..

This week hubby and I are celebrating being married 15 years!

I would love to travel the moment I'm too much of a homebody! I would start with small trips within Australia then build myself up for the overseas' jaunts..Germany and the UK to meet family, the ancient cities... and threatened natural wonders. I DO want to see them! Someday!

I spent my teenage years on a dairy farm. What I wouldn't give for a bucket full of fresh, wholesome, full cream milk now! Of course I didn't appreciate it nearly enough at the time..

I'm a tea drinker..all the better if it's a chai. I have been known to order the odd coffee if out though..

I love the bloggy world, 'meeting' new people, writing posts to look back on and of course, communicating with YOU!

I hope the weekend treated you well! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Eats of the Week

At our place we've been eating eggs! The first hen has started egg like clockwork each morning. It felt like an enormous wait with hubby even thinking we'd bought some strange hybrid variety of sterile, non-egg laying chooks! Phew, I'm so glad this wasn't the case! We will patiently wait for the others to follow her lead..

Sometimes one falls off the sourdough wagon. Or the whole bread wagon for that matter...

..only to hop back on again at another time that feels right. It's feels good to be baking again.

Kibbled 7 grain sourdough
I made my first ever batch of homemade muesli this week. This would be of the toasted and glazed with honey type...the book didn't say it was so more-ish! I was really happy to use some new grains I had just bought at ethic. Rolled rice! Have you tried this? It's ahh....very crunchy!

After a preliminary harvest of excitement well before ripeness...I've been letting our first ever  (token) crop of apricots ripen on the tree and discovered that by doing so they form the most seductive blush..

Plus, they're the most delicious apricot I've ever tasted. Not that I'm biased or anything, having planted the tree and then spending time watering it, defending it from goats, mulching it, netting it...yaddayadda..

The tree is a Moorpark. And even my gardening book says they're delicious! See, I would not lie..

A crumble also made an appearance this week. All for experimental purposes. I needed to perform some quality control in the form of taste testing that bottled pear/plum concoction from last week..

..and it got the thumbs up! I will definitely be making this combination again...the whole cinnamon stick really adds that extra bit of yum without overpowering the flavour of the fruits. The plums were also slightly tart and went nicely with the sweet crumble topping..

And it's blackberry season here! I've been 'Picking our home'!  It's such a comfort to know that they haven't been sprayed or been visited on by a stray dog..(yes, this would worry me if picking from a roadside!). Just 100% good, clean berries here for the taking, if I can beat the birds that is.

I'm feeling a blackberry and apple jam making session coming on...

What's being eaten at your place?