Friday, December 27, 2013

From the (very festive) week...

1. Festive favours of the homegrown garlic variety
2. The teen's completed gingerbread house
3. Ahem. Oh dear!
4. Revisiting some old favourites
5. Pecan pie - yum!
6. A particularly festive salad
7. New season good!
8. She snaps.
9. Local swimming..
10. ...and rope swinging!
11. Homemade raspberry schnapps (following this recipe over at Elastic Mom) 
I used gin, raspberries and a little bit of sugar.
12. The most amazing birthday present. Can you believe it's even handquilted!!
(Thankyou sooooo much Mum xxx)
13. Hoping your week has been completely wonderful.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Rustic mushroom tart, baby sewing and a surprise visitor!

 Pre-festive greetings to you! A few goings on from the week to share, from my world to yours...

1. Mushroom tarts:

I was making a meal for a friend this week and decided to go with a mushroom tart. Not having made one before I was happy with the happy I ended up eating the second one myself..shh. It was a combination of several enticing looking recipes morphed into one..scroll down to see my kombi-recipe. 

2. Baby sewing:
(New Look 6793)

Two gifts were needed in a hurry for two different babies and New Look 6793 proved to be a most suitable pattern (if a little oversized!). Above is the dress version, view A, which I made in a 'small' size, although appears to be sized around 6months/00. 

Below are view C and D - pants and top which I made in newborn size, although actually turned out more like a commercial 3 month/000 sizing. That's both cases the recipients can grow into them... 

3. The Teen Creates:

Of late -  a gingerbread house. I had found myself in a situation with a large quantity of gingerbread dough in the fridge needing to be baked and she offered to make a house for the as you might well imagine, I said yes. 

I don't know how this will go with my plan to cut out sugar from my diet *sigh*. But while I figure it out, I can still enjoy looking at it in all it's naive sweetness, literally! Those wonky windows I happen to find particularly charming!

4: A surprise visitor!:

What an exciting discovery to find a small turtle sitting near our back door last night! After observing it for some time, we watched it make it's way back into the dam, in a most peculiar, (turtle like even?) fashion. A movement kind of like a cross between a waddle and a sassy sway..with all four legs moving in time and a very, very long neck poking out of that small shell! Quite swift it was too, in fact. What a sight! Happy Solstice! :)

Rustic mushroom, caramelised onion and thyme tart

2 large spanish onions, sliced
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1tbs brown sugar
500g button mushrooms, quartered
2 tbs butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-2 tbs fresh or dried homegrown thyme, chopped
125g greek feta, crumbled
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
your favourite shortcrust pastry recipe
olive oil

Preheat oven to 180c. To begin, gently saute the onions in a little olive oil until transparent and then add the vinegar and sugar. Stirring often, allow the onions to cook down over a gentle heat until they are dark and thick, around 15-20 minutes.

Remove the onions and place into a separate bowl. Heat a little more oil in the pan and add the butter and allow it to melt and start to foam up. Add the mushrooms and cook gently until they are glossy and the juices are starting to run. Add the garlic and thyme and allow to cook until the mushroom liquid has nearly evaporated. Add the caremilised onions to the pan and season well.

Roll out the pastry into one large or two smaller squares and place on a lined baking tray. Heap the mushroom/onion mixture into the centre of the pastry and spread out to within about an inch from the edges. Fold the edges over to contain the mushroom mixture and brush pastry with beaten egg. Sprinkle tarts with crumbled feta and bake in the lower part of the oven for around 40 minutes, or until golden brown and base is cooked. Serve sprinkled with extra thyme with a green salad alongside.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Slow Living 2013 - November/December

Hello! It's been so long and I have missed visiting this space. There are many things happening around me that I long to blog about but am finding the time a real challenge. I won't bore you with the details, I am sure you know this feeling only too well yourself!

However, I really wanted to do a final wrap up for the Slow Living month by month series and was feeling extra guilty about not making it here for the November edition and then suddenly had a brainwave to combine the November and December installments. They don't call it the silly season for nothing! Trying to squeeze everything in at the moment is beyond challenging, so by combining the two months, hopefully it will ease the pressure somewhat! I would love it if you would join in with me to reflect upon achievements made under nine different categories. To read more about this blog link up, please see here. So without further ado, my November/December Slow Living entry:

{Nourish} - I have been spending time examining my diet recently and it's possible connection to some joint pain that I have been experiencing for several months now. I was convinced I had sensitivities to lactose and gluten and took steps to cut these things out of my regular eating. Not noticing any huge improvement with the joint pain, I remain unconvinced to any connection there, but did notice that I felt a whole lot better physically from not consuming so much of these foods. I have pretty much remained off dairy for a couple of months now, with the exception of yoghurt and the odd sneaking in of hard cheese, which don't seem to affect me too much with bloating and cramps. I can't believe it's taken me so long to connect the dots and try cutting them out! Now cooking for the family is another challenge that needs serious thought - what to do about lasagne, macaroni cheese, scalloped potatoes and so on. Why do most of my favourite comfort foods contain dairy? It's just not fair. Does anyone know of a good substitute for cream? I am finding this the hardest part of all!!

Homemade yoghurt, drained overnight to remove excess whey and mixed with homegrown raspberries..yum!

{Prepare} - Ooh, so much goodness has been happening in this category lately! I have been spending a lot of time dehydrating various items for the pantry - muesli, fruit leathers, mushrooms - sliced and also grinding them up into a powder, herbs - rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley (I figured let's save what's growing in the garden before hacking them back after they go to seed!), and apple rings. The apple rings are demolished straight away by the family - and the mushroom powder is proving to be very beneficial for sneaky additions to family dinners for a real flavour punch!

A little bit of pickling has been happening too..when I came across large continental cucumbers recently at a really good price, I just couldn't walk past them. The family love bread and butter cucumbers so we can always do with jars in the pantry - especially now with the warmer weather arriving and more 'picnicky' type lunches being consumed. 

A few boozy preparations have also been taking place in my kitchen too, such as a couple of jars of raspberry schnapps after reading a post on fruit schnapps by Cath at Elastic Mom. How divine does this sound! I have used some frozen raspberries that we had lurking in the freezer from last year's harvest and have used gin for the soaking liquid. Another couple of weeks and we should be good to go for a taste test,  - I'm thinking this could make the perfect liqueur to see in the new year!

A revisit to my oztops has also been taking place, with some apple cider already hitting the fridge. Next up, I am hoping to brew up a bottle of grape juice in the lambrusca style. But what is really tempting me from the boozy quarters is the idea of making some homemade mead! If only we had bees and a plentiful amount of fresh honey to use! Have you ever made mead? Do you have a good recipe to share?

{Green} - Hmm, lets see. I have a good one - did you know that in addition to using it as a hair wash, bicarb soda (baking soda) makes a fantastic cleanser for the skin? If you have dry skin, a little rub with a diluted bicarb paste/liquid (1tbs bicarb to 1 cup water) in the shower and then rinsed off does amazing things to the feel of your skin. I was so impressed to see that it actually kind of mimicked the effect of bathing in hot mineral springs - how cool is that? Try it and see for yourself!

I have also been turning my mind towards some infused oils from the garden now that the healing herbs have made a reappearance. I have started a calendula infusion with olive oil and after about 3 weeks in a sunny spot it should be ready to prepare into a salve. I would love to try a combination of calendula, comfrey and lavender infused in oil as well! And maybe even include a little bit of plantain..but more on that under "Discover".

Calendula oil  - for use on minor skin irritations such as burns, rashes, bites/stings etc.

{Grow} What a lovely thing it was to have some ladies from my veggie group come to visit and put some summer crops in for me. A little bit of cake, some hot coffee and an hour or so chatting is all it takes to fuel their energy for the task. They were kind enough to put in pumpkins, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchinis for me last week.

With the unpredictable weather we've been having, I also decided to pull up our garlic as I was concerned about the bulbs sitting in damp soil and potentially rotting. I am really pleased this year to have a mixture of white and purple garlic harvested. The purple cloves I planted back in autumn were kindly given to me by my good friend, Kirsty. 

Allowing the bulbs to dry under cover before the messy task of braiding!

{Reduce} - I have been attempting alterations to clothing I don't wear to turn them into something I can wear. In some cases they are op-shopped/thrifted items that are too long or wide and a simple adjustment is needed. Other cases, are items I have made that don't fit me well and a revisit to the seam lines and darts are what's required. It is actually kind of fascinating to study the construction details of different garments and how they create the three dimensional form from what was previously a flat piece of fabric!

{Create} - Gosh, I've been on a big sewing binge lately!! I don't know what happened - one minute it was knitting season and the next - the sewing machine was out and whirring away. In the name of a mammoth fabric de-stash, I have made three summer tops, a pair of shorts for the youngest, a wrap-around skirt, and a dress! What a funny feeling it is to make wearable items from fabric that has been sitting in my drawer for...years way too long. I have also been drooling over online patterns and have found several inspirational sewing blogs to distract me from cooking dinner inspire me. Check out: Ginger Makes, Tilly and the Buttons and Sewaholic Patterns/blog for some great reading!

Op-shopped fabric from the stash and New Look 6803. Classed as easy..and it really was! Don't you love that?
{Discover} - As I mentioned above, some really cool sewing sites for the late night inspirational hit. I also enjoyed reading Changing Gears by Greg Foyster and have passed it along to my biking friend. Another interesting little book I've been looking through is The Weed Forager's Handbook. With references to many common weeds and their uses it is eye-opening to see healing and culinary uses behind these plants that were commonly just thought of as weeds. We have loads of plantain growing here and I would like to try and make an infused oil similar to the calendula one above, using plantain, which is apparently another great skin healer. I also keep eyeing off the mallow that we have growing  but have not gone there yet with it in regards to a  leafy salad addition! Do tell me, have you?

{Enhance} - A couple of meal trees are making the rounds within my circle lately. It is such a good feeling to provide a practical gift that nurtures the other person in a time of need. You can read more about meal trees here. My daughters' primary school also held it's biennial fete which was a lot of fun to participate in. There was such wonderful craft and plant shopping - perfect for this time of year! Helping out on the woodfired oven loading pizzas in and out was also enjoyable on the day. I also had a really nice experience a little further back and happened to meet a blog reader while going through the channels for some local volunteer work. (Hi Angie! :))

{Enjoy} Busy as this time of year is, there is much to enjoy and I really do feel lucky to recognise this. Winding up of photography and spinning club for the year with bbq's and festive lunches. End of year concerts/performances and presentation nights are in full swing. Breathing in the moment of my middle daughter's final days in primary school before she embarks on her high school career are precious. Watching her grow in confidence as she attempts and accomplishes things she has not done before also causes me to stop and reflect. Thinking about the special times planned ahead to gather with family and the arrival of a new year and some much needed holiday time. Hoping your time with the people around you is comforting and enjoyable as we wind down 2013. xx

 If you would like to join in with your own post in this link-up, please add your blog post link to the list below (and please add your post to the list if you were organised for November!)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Changing Gears - A book by Greg Foyster!

A quick note for people who may have read about Greg Foyster and the release of his book:
 "Changing Gears". 

His story sounds truly inspiring - deciding to live more simply Greg quits his job in advertising and embarks on a cycling journey with his partner, Sophie, pedalling from Melbourne all the way up to far north Queensland (via Tasmania would you believe!) in the hope to gather ideas for a new way of life.

The book covers the couple's adventures along the way and the colourful characters they happen to meet. As well as meeting up with people out there who have embarked upon their own version of simple living, the book looks at the question: "Can we be happier with less?"  Food for thought, eh? I can hardly wait to get a copy and start reading it myself!

Greg is nearing the end of his (also pedal powered!) book tour and there is still time to catch him if you are near any of the places below..

Batemans Bay Community Library
Saturday 9 November, 10:30am
Talk, signing & the local 'Human-Powered Bike Generator' getting a workout
Hanging Rock Place, Batehaven
Phone: (02) 4472 5850

DeanSwift Books, Nowra
Tuesday 12 November, 12noon
Talk & signing
120 Junction Street, Nowra
Phone: (02) 4421 5568

Gleebooks, Sydney
Tuesday 19 November, 6pm
Greg Foyster in conversation with Craig Reucassel & book signing
49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe
Phone: (02) 9660 2333
Book online:

You can visit Greg's website and blog 'Simple Lives' here. 

Greg has also set up a facebook page on his travels, here. 

For more info and to purchase, see here.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Slow Living 2013 - October

 October..oh where did you go? One minute it was the first and the's halloween! A particularly busy month in our house with two teenette birthdays and accompanying parties to organise. I think I may have been onto something a couple of years back having both parties on the same day..just one lot of decorations, one lot of food, one clean smart. It didn't quite work with the requested slumber parties though..but both daughters seemed to enjoy their celebrations all the more for having it on their own day.  Read on to see what developments have occurred elsewhere in our home during the month...

Feel like joining in? Just leave a link to your blog post written under the following categories in the box below. Have a wonderful month out there, people!
(For a detailed description of each category, click here)

{Nourish} Minimal developments here this month, preferring instead to rely on tried and true staples for family meals. Limited time due to study may have something to do with this. I have however had some exposure to homemade nut butters and all sorts of treats made with coconut oil..both of which are intriguing. Not to mention being asked by a friend if I "activated my nuts before eating them?" Say what now! I generally eat 'em as they come but am open to change!! (I think she may have been referring to soaking them, or sprouting them..or both and maybe even drying them in the oven?)

{Prepare} – zilcho preparingness in this family birthday month..

{Green} This month I've been playing around with rosemary infusions as a final hair rinse. I have particularly dry skin and the skin on my head is no different so I'm pleased to report that the average home garden variety of rosemary does an outstanding job on dry skin. I've been boiling up a handful of fresh leaves in some water and once cool, straining the infusion and then allowing it to soak into wet hair after washing and leaving it in.  It's really good, try it and see! 

A visit to some hot mineral springs for a soothing soak also did wonders for my skin and I am back to taking local honey for spring time allergies..and yes, it really does work! Again, try it and see.
To top the month off, eyeing off the amazing healing garden at Heronswood was icing on the cake for me. Unfortunately most of the plants growing were still in trial stages and not available to purchase..but it was such fun to come across plants growing that I have only read ever about..

{Reduce} This month we had a distinct lack of school uniforms available. I later found them at the bottom of the youngest's wardrobe and identified the issue. Unraveled hems, missing buttons and small tears where the problem. Just one hour was all it took to repair the school uniforms to a wearable standard. Now having the daugher fitting into them for any significant amount of time is a matter completely out of my hands..!

{Grow} Things are quiet here in the garden - it seems to be that empty time of year. I did manage to find some time to plant some chitted potatoes a few weeks back which are always well received. Currently I am  harvesting leeks, silverbeet, parsley, beetroot leaves, the odd asparagus and herbs such as sage and rosemary - I told you it was slow! On the up side however, I did enter some weeds in a local show for a bit of fun and came out with a 2nd place ribbon. Who knew that even on the weed front, there is stiff competition? Having a friend receive the first place made the disappointment all the easier to tolerate...!

{Create} Very little crafting has been happening here lately. My October contribution is a pair of baby beanies for a special pair of twins in my SIL's family. It was a bit of fun, because my mum knitted cardigans in matching wool. It will be some time yet before they fit into them, though!

{Discover} I have been a complete bookworm lately. There are so many books calling out at me to read them, it's hard to find the time to check them all off my list! For leisure, I have been absorbed in the Earth’s Children series written by Jean Auel. There are six books in the series and it is set in the time when neanderthals and early homosapians walked the earth. The central character is a healer and the books have abundant references to botanical medicine, which I am loving! 

I have also been spending quite a bit of time reading about chakrahs and meditation. I am finding it all so fascinating and as I said, it's a challenge to find the hours in the day to read all that is calling to me!

{Enhance} I took a deep breath this month and submitted an application to become a volunteer in our area's local health center in the aged care section. This feels totally right for me right now and as I am currently studying in this area, it will hopefully give me an insight into future options that may become available as well as a testing of the waters...

{Enjoy} I always love seeing my daughters celebrate birthdays, and having two in the one month is hectic, albeit fun! The highlight for me this month though was the veggie group girls weekend away. It was beyond a treat for me after the busy month to get away with those weekly gardening girls and relax, relax and then relax some more!! Coming home to a kitchen that was cleaner than how I left it was a real treat, too!

How has your month been? 

Monday, October 28, 2013

From the peninsula..,

Eleven women. A house..quite a  large house in fact. With an open fire and by the sea! A visit to these hot springs (sooo good! I thoroughly recommend!). A winery visit and a foodie lunch. A beachy stroll and a much anticipated visit to Heronswood. Even a veggie patch celebration cake! All packed in amongst copious amounts of chatter and belly laughs. Lots of those! Six years in the planning and completely wonderful!