Friday, January 31, 2014

Slow Living Monthly 9 - same monthly link-up, different name..

Just a quick note to say that the monthly Slow Living link-ups will be running again in 2014!

I am just about to hop onto a new page and start jotting down notes under the various categories for my January installment. Are you thinking of joining in too? It would be wonderful if you did! It's so much fun to see what people have been up to and gain a few tips along the way as well as creating a visual diary to look back on. I love how it has grown into a feeling of a welcoming, little community, which is all thanks to everyone who participates, reads or leaves a comment. Thankyou!!

I have changed the name slightly, too. It is: 'Slow Living Essentials - Monthly 9 link up' which I think gives a more accurate representation of things. As usual, there are the nine categories involved: nourish, prepare, grow, green, create, reduce, discover, enhance and enjoy. More can be read about these categories here.

Just one more thing..I have created a little badge for the link-up. You are most welcome to use the badge on your own blog when linking up or in your sidebar. Just copy and paste the code below onto your blog:

Slow Living Essentials Monthly 9 link up - Grab my button!

My post will be up in the next couple of days with the box for you to link up with.

Have fun and I hope to see you there!
Christine xx

Friday, January 24, 2014

So I made this little summer dress..

 ..using some fabric I picked up at the quilting shop and a 70's pattern from my stash.

The pattern is Butterick 4801. It would have to be one of the comfiest dresses I've ever made. Which surprised me because it's the first dress I've ever worn with a belt. It's so light and breezy though..I loved wearing it to the beach on our recent escape...
I was feeling a bit daunted as the dress had a lot of construction detail which I normally try to avoid - such as buttons up the front, a back yolk, a buckle belt and a collar! But I really, really wanted this dress as I had been staring at it all winter whenever I was in my craft room studying, which was quite a lot.

I chose a warm, blustery day a few weeks ago and stayed inside pottering quietly away. The best kind of creative meditation..
It was my first attempt at making a belt. The buckle was found at a local goodwill shop some time back for all of 20 cents, if I remember correctly. If you have never made a buckle belt for fear of it being complicated - I can only say give it a go! It was really very simple and such fun to make. My 10 year old daughter chose the buttons because i just couldn't decide! I love her choice..she has a good eye, that one.

The collar was challenging but not as bad as I had feared. Taking it slow and steady and walking away when the kettle beckoned helped a lot.

Pre-beach departure, by a matter of minutes..
The ocean awaits!
Thanks to my 13 year old daughter for photographing me wearing the dress. I think she did a really cool job!!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Banana Chia Pancakes (dairy, gluten & sugar free)

I've been having a play around with pancake mixtures lately. It all came about after I started making significant changes to my diet (which you can read more about here). I had thought: 'wouldn't it be nice to sail through life without ever needing to enter pancake territory again?', but as it turns out sometimes a person really neeeeds a pancake. Even if it's gluten and dairy free. And they're away from home. Especially if they are at the beach for a scorching week and need a good breakfast boost and a reminder of the fond memories they once shared in a past life with the pancakes of the wheaten variety..

 Surprisingly they were quite good. There seems to be a stigma associated with gluten free baking that conventional bakers snub their noses at (until recently, myself included!). Images of dense, heavy rock muffins and dry, crumbly falling apart cakes come to mind. It was a pleasant discovery that I can still make perfectly good pancakes for myself and the family without the use of wheat. And I'm not saying to eat these all the time for breakfast, they are a wonderful breakfast treat! For those times when we absolutely can't do without.  And when it comes down to it...who are we in the kitchen really, if we don't have a good pancake recipe up our sleeve? Enjoy

Banana Chia Pancakes (gluten, dairy and sugar free)

These pancakes are made with buckwheat flour, mashed banana and chia seeds in the batter. The chia seeds offer a nice crunch but if they are not your thing, feel free to leave them out. Extra liquid may need to be added to the batter while cooking as the chia seeds take on their absorbing qualities. The buckwheat flour really brings a lot to the texture of the pancake, offering a light, fluffy result reminiscent of pancakes from days gone by. No sugar is needed as the banana brings in enough sweetness on its own.
(Serves 2-3).

1  medium, very ripe banana, mashed
1 egg
2 tbs chia seeds (I used white)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup gluten free self-raising flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
almond, soy or other dairy free milk, as required
coconut oil for cooking
To serve: maple syrup, extra banana sliced and chia seeds (optional)

In a medium bowl place the mashed banana, egg, vanilla and chia seeds. Whisk to combine. Add the flours and continue to mix, adding your choice of milk to the batter until desired consistency is reached (thick for pikelets, runny for crepey pancakes..or somewhere in between, like me!).

Heat a little coconut oil in a pan and cook large spoonfuls of the batter over medium heat. Note: they cook really fast! Keep them warm in a folded towel while working your way through the batter, adding more liquid to the mix if the chia seeds are absorbing the moisture too fast.

Serve warm with a drizzle of pure maple syrup, extra banana slices and a sprinkling of chia seeds.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

From the beach...(Ocean Grove, Vic)

{Ocean Grove beach, Vic}
{Barwon River, Barwon Heads, Vic}
{Protect our wildlife and natural environments - artwork made with rubbish washed up on beaches from waterways.
Click on image for larger version}

 A week of temperatures above 40C. Sweltering conditions with the extreme heat causing high risk bushfire conditions at home. It was coincidental that a planned trip to the beach happened to fall in the same week. But welcome - completely welcome! Thanks to Oma's keen eye for comfy accommodation we stayed close to the beach and visited the crashing, noisy water every day. We rode (or at least attempted to) waves, ate simply with coolness being the priority, drank loads of ice water (in between chilled ciders and pale ales), played Cluedo (of the Phryne Fisher variety! Phryne is my hero..) and generally did our best to beat the heat. Full body immersion in large volumes of water really is the only way. Thankyou Oma for a beautiful week. xx

Hoping you  got through the week without too much discomfort and are enjoying the cool last. And to the northerners..keep warm!

(PS - the last image was taken in Ocean Grove's main street and is artwork made with rubbish that had made it's way to the beach through rivers and waterways. The message: Protect our wildlife and natural environment by placing rubbish in bins/not littering).

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Garden 'date' January '14

(Thankyou all so much for your positive comments and support on my last post. It was encouraging to hear  feedback from those of you in similar situations regarding gluten and dairy sensitivities. I really appreciate the time you took to stop and talk about this topic).

It's been absolutely yonks since I've found myself doing a garden update..and what I have to disclose to you is that it's actually been soooo long that I fear that there is zilcho to update! So, maybe we could make it a 'date' then..? Are you with me as I take a stroll around the garden to check out what's happening in my own little corner of the world?

The month started with looking after my neighbour's chooks and plants while they were away. I was as excited as a small child when I stumbled around a hedge with the hose in hand and found this scarecrow looking back at me! How adorable is it?

 Back at home things in the garden are progressing slowly. It hardly feels like we've had any warm weather yet, with just a handful of hot (swimworthy?) days. I am bracing myself however, for next week when the weather is forecast to soar into the high 30's for several days in a row. Not particularly comforting from a bushfire danger perspective.

Strawberries are painfully slow to ripen. Especially when other home gardeners appear to have been munching on them for the past month. I have decided to take steps to increase my vertical growing space for this delicious crop in the coming summers. I think it's crazy that I could easily fit double or more the amount of hanging baskets on our courtyard wall and I am not currently utilising this space. And did you ever meet a person who didn't like strawberries? I mean reaallly didn't like them? They are pretty few and far between..

 Looking north. I still have a soft spot for ladders in the garden. They are just so practical and mobile!

 We have some brussels sprouts plants that are looking promising. Confession: I have never ever grown a brussel sprout despite my many attempts! I am finding their progress quite thrilling! Really.

 Mental note: next year plant masses of poppies. A whole field even! Well, almost..

 Potatoes are ever present..

 Another perennial leek gone to flower. I am not minding at all because their flowers are just so very interesting!

 Climbing beans growing from last summers saved seed.

 The first blush! Oh my :) This apricot tree is a Moorpark. We also have a Trevatt growing and it's fruit is slightly delayed in ripeness compared to the Moorpark. I absolutely adore homegrown apricots.

Corn is in. This year in the hugelkultur bed. I am loving the sunny aspect and the decreased demand for watering from this bed using this style of gardening. (Hugelkultur is basically a method of building beds that involves piling rotting timber and then layers of organic material and soil to plant into. It has many benefits including increased water holding capabilities and available nutrients for plants). So far the corn (and cucumbers) look pretty content. I'm also hoping the cucumbers grow well in among the corn stalks. Have you paired these two together before? How did they go?

Lemon verbena. Have you tried it in a tea? It's so easy, just allow a few leaves to infuse in boiled water for a few minutes and then...drink! It really is that simple. And it's also so very refreshing. The leaves also dry really well for use when the plant is dormant over winter.

What's happening in your patch/garden/balcony/windowsill at the moment? 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Where I'm at (a rambling post on dairy and gluten)

Hi all, I hope you are enjoying a good start to the new year. This was planned to be a shortish post but my brain obviously needed to ramble. Grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy the read..

Huge changes are happening in my eating habits lately. I don't know whether it was the constant joint pain I was experiencing which I had put down to a recently diagnosed autoimmune issue, talking to people around me who are also shifting their approach to eating or even the influence of Jean Auel and her absorbing books that are the cause..but I've gotta tell you..I am feeling great! I seem to have loads more energy and am not suffering from that mid afternoon slump and the most exciting part of all..that debilitating joint pain that had been around for months is at last making an exit! Good riddance, I say.

Seriously though, thinking that this was the new kind of normal for me didn't cut it. Restricting activities because I felt pain after walking the dog around the block (ridiulcous, right!) made me realise that this was not a quality of life I was happy to accept. After confuddling doctors and their fancy x-ray machines and still not having any answers, my glimpse of hope finally came after examining my diet and what I was putting into my body. I am not advocating this change for anyone, I am merely keeping notes for myself to refer back to, so please, if you have health issues do get a thorough examination. 

Looking back I can see that I have always been sensitive to dairy..extremely dry skin and stomach issues should've been the obvious indicator. Why is it so easy to dismiss these kinds of things to other contributing factors.."It's winter..everyone's skin is dry" "I need to drink more water" or my favourite "This is just how I am" 
No! It doesn't have to be that way. By eliminating dairy from my diet I have found that my stomach is sooo much happier, as is my skin and my joints. This was hugely challenging for me though..from the girl who spent a chunk of her childhood living on a dairy farm. Cream! What would I do without it!! Butter for cooking and milk products would I ever survive? 

After noticing the unbelievable improvements to my body after removing dairy from my diet for a trial period, the decision was made for me. It was obvious, dairy had to go. It hasn't been so hard at all. Nothing like I anticipated. Eliminating gluten and sugar also had me wondering. There is an enormous amount of information out there on the cons of consuming foods containing these and we can only make up our own decisions on how we feel after we eat them and their effects on our own bodies. I was completely in the zone and noticing positive results with eliminating dairy so decided to probe further and increase the challenge to see what would result for me.

Gluten is in everything, right? How would I make a sandwich? Coat a schnitzel? Bake a cake? 
This from the girl who completely loves to bake. (To answer my own questions: wrap it in a lettuce leaf, use almond meal and maybe I shouldn't be eating that anyway). Did I really just say that? Me? Lover of fine baked goods and cakes unlimited - how can this possibly be? I'll tell you.. my body did not lie. 

After experiencing more positive results to my system after cutting back on gluten and processed sugar, I was inspired stick with it. There have to be people out there eating this way, right? Just like there has to be alternatives to certain ingredients I have become used to eating which are probably not the best for my situation?
Yes! Absolutely. I actually feel a little overwhelmed by the amount of information that I am finding online..not to mention the books that are calling (shouting even) at me to read them. If my body feels good after eating then I know that what I am eating is right for ME. I can only explore this further and see where it takes me. 

Are you finding different foods affect you in different ways? Are you in a similar situation? What are your thoughts on food in general? 

Wow..If you have managed to read through my ramble this far, I'd love to show you what's been happening in my kitchen lately..

Raw fruit and nut balls - my new occasional sweet treat

A foray into almond milk..with a bonus - almond meal to use in other dishes

Roadside foraged cherry plums from a stroll with my mum :)

 Said cherry plums after being stewed and strained. They made their way into the crockpot to flavour tonight's dinner - slow cooked shoulder of organic lamb (purchased from these lovely people)
I felt very 'Ayla' when I decided to slow cook this enormous hunk of meat and use my foraged plums stewed and mashed for the flavouring ;) Don't have a clue what I'm talking about? Read the Jean Auel books!

 In preparation - san choy bau. The 13yo's dinner for the family this week. It was YUM!

 The 2013 garlic harvest..dried, braided and hanging in the kitchen. Love!

Enjoy your week out there, people. And happy eating, whatever foods you most love to enjoy. :)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 - a greeting

Hello! Hoping your festive season was filled with joy and laughter and a bellyful of good food! Thankyou tremendously for reading this year and for supporting the Slow Living monthly link-ups. I feel I have gotten to know you so much better through visiting your pages and sharing in your experiences. 

Over the holiday season I took some time out to have a sticky beak over at instagram... and consequently joined. I would love it if we could meet up over there, too! My name is: slowlivingessentials - do hop on over and take a squiz, it's loads of fun and a little addictive! 

These days as we unwind from the tightly wound festive calender, I find daughters' friends arriving for sleepovers, a noisy rooster confusing just who exactly are members of his flock, a determined hen adamant to hatch her eggs, and the slower pace of watering vegetables and fruit trees that makes summer so enjoyable. 
Be well, dear friends. Looking forward to a new and exciting year on the blog! xx