Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Personalised Tree Decorations

Welcome someone new into the family with their very own place on the Christmas tree.
You've seen these hearts in the past here and here
I stamp names onto fine scraps of linen or cotton using a permanent ink.
Sewn directly on using running stitch and two strands of embroidery cotton.

This is also a nice way to remember family who have died too. They always have a place in our hearts and we especially remember them at Christmas time.

Be at peace one and all.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Gingerbread Baking

Some of the Living Better With Less group have decided to make gingerbread baking our Christmas activity this year and we met in my kitchen last Sunday for a baking session.
My friend in America who has some significant notches on the proverbial baking belt kindly shared her recipe with me. She has been making it since the 6th grade do you mind. And she allowing me to share the good stuff with you too.

I pondered making a gingerbread house a la my own house profile and thought it not interesting enough then pondered the profile of my birdhouse

But to be honest I couldn't be bothered doing the math for the components.
In the end I took the easy option and used Cindy's house cut outs.
The recipe makes ample mixture and after cutting out my house pieces I found myself rolling and rolling and cutting and pressing....

Dozens of hanging ornaments.
You can leave them plain or ice them and thread with some ribbon.
I couldn't find my icing set so made do with a snipped freezer bag.
They went like hot cakes at the market!

Gingerbread Recipe

1 cup of butter
1 cup of brown sugar 
1 cup of  molasses
7 cups of flour
2 teas baking soda
2 teas ground cinnamon
2 teas ground ginger
1 teas salt
1/2 teas ground cloves
2/3 cup water

Cream butter and sugar with a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Add molasses and beat well. With mixer on low add 3 cups of flour and the rest of the ingredients except the water.
Still on low add the remaining 4 cups of flour and mix until crumbly and homogeneous. Slowly add the water until the mixture comes together and starts to form a ball.

Roll dough out on parchment paper. Cut pieces out and remove the scraps. Transfer the paper with pieces to a cool baking sheet. Bake in a moderate oven for about 10 mins. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Message In A Bauble"

I have been very busy crafting and creating these past couple of weeks in readiness for a special pop-up hand made market. Nothing new has come into the house and it's all been stash busting and it feels sooo good. With a grandchild regularly visiting I need to seriously downsize to make way for his paraphernalia. who would have thought I would have all this baby stuff again (all you experienced grandparents are sagely nodding your heads now).

Take some vintage sheet music with seldom expressed sentiments nowadays and a bucket of broken necklaces and faux pearls....

Some glass baubles and soft floaty feathers to carry your sentiments....

A beautiful personal gift for a friendship so kind and thoughtful that has sustained one through the year.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Tisane For Cold & Cough

This is about as flash as I can be this week.
When I feel the hint of sickness lurking near my respiratory tract I take a dose of elderberry tincture straight away and knock it on the head. Now we are in spring and my supplies are all gone after sharing with lots of family in need this year and I am watching the flowers covetously planning a bigger bottle up for the still room.

I did find this calico bag of dried berries that I had stashed having never got around to tincturing them. The stem and seeds are emetic so it is important to remove them; adding vomiting and diarrhoea to your woes would be disastrous. Take the dried berries into your palm and clap your other palm over the top and move them gently together in circles. The stems will quickly and easily separate and if you do this action holding your palms vertically the stems will even fall away so you don't even have to winnow. 

I steep the elder berries in a tea pot with a stainless steel strainer (non reactive to food acids and alkaline) and give them a light press and stir after they have re-hydrated. The fine mesh holds back the seeds. I also add sage and thyme fresh picked from the garden but you can also use them from dried form. Both of these herbs are known to aid coughs, sore throats and irritated and inflamed linings. They also have anti-septic and anti-viral properties. 

It really is well worth planting beyond the basil and parsley and reading and extending your knowledge of herbs. I do stress the thorough reading and researching too, just because something is natural doesn't mean it can be treated casually. There is powerful medicine in plants and it is well to know their effects especially if you are on medication or have pre-existing disease.

I wish you good health.

Friday, November 14, 2014

4 Steps To Blissful Gliding Drawers

Do you have old wooden drawers that stick and you shove and pull and silently curse every other time?
Well this simple maintenance tip will rid you of one little stressor of every day life.

It will work for most drawers unless they are too far worn or just poorly made in the first place. This maintenance should ideally be done at least once a year but it's one of those bottom of the list type of jobs, once you have done it though you'll wonder why you procrastinated for so long.

Step 1
It's always good to have a yearly assessment of your garments or a junk drawer clean out.
Pull everything out and be ruthless with "stay" and "go" piles. The first major no-no for good drawer health is over stuffing causing it to not close properly and catch on drawers above. Weigh it up! A drawer carry too much weight is going to really grind as it slides back and forth. Don't be tempted to just keep stuffing, because that is precisely what you'll do - Stuff it!

Step 2
I do one drawer at a time as many drawers are custom worn to their own space and if you remove them all at once it can be a bit time consuming trying to work out which drawer fits back where.
Take the drawer out and give it a good wipe over, inside and out. A plain damp cloth is fine.
Now is the perfect time replace the lining if you use any. A sheet of shelf paper, old wrapping paper or contact works fine.

Step 3
Fit a nozzle/small brush head to your vacuum cleaner pipe and reach into the drawer carcass and suck all the time worn wood dust from the crevices and runners. All this accumulated wood dust is also compounding the gliding problems and wearing down your drawers.
You may also notice some cobwebs waaayyy back there and the vacuum makes these easy to reach too. A very light mist into the interior of clove bud oil and water will deter spiders and soft insects and kill any mould spores (see this post for more info and mixing ratio)

Step 4
Now here is the real biggie in this process.
Apply bees wax
Take a small piece and run it backwards and forwards on all the running parts. As you rub the friction heat will also help it to meld to the wood. This fine layer of wax is key to your drawers gliding like a swan on water!
I get my beeswax from a local honey supplier and use it in my salve making but you can get it from craft stores also.

And that's it. 
A drawer left to wear down over time develops gaps and hangs and causes frustration. You have enough to deal with without having to fight your drawers every day in every room. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

All Free...But We Couldn't Give It Away!

Last week I was very excited to be a part of the Colony 47 Spring Share Market.
Colony 47 works for the community and their mission is
"to create a fairer community, eliminate disadvantage and improve the lives of Tasmanians" 

A share market was organised to coincide with fair food week and timed for encouraging spring planting.

All the seedlings above
A picnic blanket to sit and read gardening magazines and maybe take one
The seed box with hundreds of seeds

A speaker about compost making
Just look at that great teaching tool created from half a bin and some Perspex. Learning about nitrogen and carbon layers and the additions like comfrey (bottom right).

The Tasmanian community food garden group were there with activities for kids

A demonstration showing fun with food and how to be creative with it.

I drove from Launceston and did a talk about beans, how to grow, how to harvest and how to use dried beans.

I talked about nutrition and feeding through the "hungry gap" and had made baked beans from scarlet runner beans, a bean salad in seconds and a white bean dip even faster! Note the Good and Cheap book- I was so excited, it turned up just the day before. It's a not for profit book that aims to teach people how to eat well on $4 a day. I love it!

Trestles under blossom trees and little marquis 

And the Colony 47 garden putting on a good show and even mushrooms coming up from the compost!
Being a typical spring day it was a bit breezy and cool and clouds were scudding across the sky. It was beautifully organised. About 60 people had rsvp-ed to this all free event...

But we were lucky to have a dozen people show up I reckon.
I'm starting to wonder,
if you make something free, is it then perceived as valueless?
Is something only worthy if it has a dollar value attached?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Spring Rice Paper Wraps - Breaking the Basil Bias

I once again came home with a basket full of greens from the market, many of them herbs.
Every year at this time people will come to the market and peruse the array of fresh seasonal vegetables of spring and ask...

"Do you have any basil?"

I aim to educate and explain, basil is a summer herb, it's not in season yet but there are all these herbs, fresh and ready now...

Today at market I had parsley, sage, thyme, mint, lovage, Vietnamese mint and salad burnet.
But you know what?
People just don't know what to do with them, let alone rejoice in them!

So here is what you could have made with those amazing fresh flavours...

Rice Paper Wraps
So fresh and easy, these really are "spring rolls". Some left over cold chicken shredded and carrot mixed with some of those greens above in the top picture all wrapped up in a rice paper round.
Tender spinach and beetroot tops were finely sliced and the leaves pulled from the Asian greens. Salad burnet adds a cucumber flavour and a welcome addition when cucumbers aren't in season. The lovage leaf brings the flavour of celery but in its soft leafy form it is ideal for including in the wrap. The flowers from the Asian greens taste of a mild nutty brassica-ish-ness.

Serve with a dipping sauce of soy, mirin and lemon juice.

No we don't have basil until summer comes but there is a lot of herbs to rejoice in in the spring season. Perhaps we need some of these chefs-superstars on commercial TV to put down the basil and start sharing some more ideas with home cooks about other herb delights.

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