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Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 - A Retrospective

Come along with me and see the year that was in our suburban quarter....

As well as my two paid jobs I also participate in the local Growers' Market and as always our activities are very much seasonally driven.
Living Better With Less also continued for another year meeting monthly.
Here are some of the things we did and learnt;


Re-hydrating and fermenting...

Kombucha making and....

Milk Keffir and Water Keffir...

We've been frugal making

Creamy yoghurt for next to nothing and

A whole three course dinner party for less than $15.

We learnt how to make healing salves and potent "Fire Cider" for a cold remedy

and talked about healing herbals and tisane...

and how to make toothpaste and sunscreen...

Wooden chair maintenance,

...and wooden drawer maintenance.

I did some work shops on food preserving called
"Beyond The Freezer"

And participated in the 
"Tassievore Eat Local Challenge"

with a very local and seasonal dinner.

I  also held a darning and knitted garment repair workshop at a Launceston pop-up "non-buying" shop in May

And later in the year I did a talk/food demonstration in Hobart for Colony 47
"All About Beans: Growing, Storing & Cooking"

And I even organised and hosted my first bus tour.
I took 30 ladies on a knitting journey through the midlands of Tasmania with a focus on fibres and local suppliers.

Our party of the year was a baby shower as we eagerly anticipated our first grandchild 

and we decorated a nursery...

And we are still trying to wipe the grins off our faces!

Sadly we lost some good people this year and I would like to dedicate this year in memory of;
Nic Leclercq - one of our Living Better With Less members and a dear friend
John Schoots - my uncle and an extraordinary man with extraordinary stories
Jeremy Ball - our deputy mayor who was an absolute hero for our city and gone too soon.

We grow, we make, we mend, we preserve,
we flourish.
Thanks for being there and sharing it all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Xmas 2014 - Copper/White/Silver

This years theme is copper/white/silver.

I've carried this theme through to the wreath also...

This year I stitched and ruched some soft ivory silk scraps and white organza and then over laid it with some copper tinged berries garland. The short, battery operated LED light string sits very easily among the wired garland twigs.

The mantle holds small vignettes of copper, silver, vintage amber bottles and old assorted books in reds. 

A beautiful hand made ceramic plate by Marley & Lockyer and some short strings of stars to light the night.

Simple white gift wrap and white raffia ribbon.
I stamped the white tags with embossing medium and powdered, mixing clear embossing powder with Ranger Perfect Pearl powder (called "perfect copper" naturally!) and used a heat gun.

I followed that through with the Christmas Cards using a pearly card stock that I had on hand.

We've polished and dusted, the crystal is throwing prisms and the silver and copper are throwing light everywhere.

Special pieces...

A special time.
Welcoming the new grandbaby to our traditions and remembering those we have lost this year.

It's hard losing those we love but to lose someone in conflict or at someone else's hand is heart breaking. My thoughts are for the families of those taken in tragic circumstances recently and my prayers are for peace.
Religion isn't violent, it's the violent and disturbed people who kill.
Peace be with you. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hand Made Gifts for 2015

This year my gift bags contain Rhubarb and Vanilla infused Vodka that I made some months ago. Assorted cordials include, Wild Nettle, Rhubarb and Blackcurrant.

These are lovely with chilled sparkling water but can also be used as syrups for desserts. The blackcurrant is particularly good with hot water for a bedtime soother.
As for last year, I have used the chalkboard look labels and very sorry to say that I have sourced the last of these bottles. I love being able to keep everything uniform in the goodie bag.

I made some "Tranquillity" room sprays for a soft calming fragrance (sometimes Christmas gets a little tense don't you find). These atomisers are about 50ml. I filled 3/4 of the way with witch hazel and added 9 drops of my blend (lavender, bergamot, ylang ylang, geranium and chamomile) and then topped with distilled water.

Last month I made a series of soy wax candles and named their different fragrances for local areas that they inspired. 

I can make jam but I bow down before Miss Kate, a true artisan of preserves, and I am so excited to share some of these creations with loved ones and colleagues. As you can tell from the labels, she sources local produce and blends the most incredible flavours. But even beyond the flavours, she works with the textures of the fruit and the moisture contents that vary from season to season and even the weather on the day plays a part in her delicious science. 
Her label name is...
My all time favourite is Blue Raja and to be honest I even just eat it off the spoon!

Kate's creations were also in keeping with a natural and black colour theme so I kept carrying that through with stamped tags and plain brown bags and silky black cord.

A little bit of this and a little bit of that.
They are not created overnight and are the product of seasonal selection and preserving. 
Made with thought and love.
I have done several posts on cordial making and you can find them all by simply typing "cordial" into the search box on the right somewhere over there.
All Kate's contact info can be read easily from the labels in the pictures above. 

You can re-read last years' gift bag post here
So what have you made for gifts this year? I'm looking already for new ideas for next year... 

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Ridiculous Amount of Fun!

We met up last weekend to decorate our gingerbread houses and had a ridiculous amount of fun!
Get your Christmas hair-do on and make some royal icing and get cracking.

You'll also need lots of lollies...
and children, 

Jars and cans provide roof support until the icing sets and sticks.
You can use a piping bag but the kids had a ball with freezer bags filled with icing and just a wee snip at one corner.

Royal Icing
1 cup plus 2 tabs icing sugar
1 egg white
1 tsp cornflour
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp lemon juice

Combine the ingredients well and store in an air tight bowl till ready to use.
NOTE: if you use icing mixture instead of icing sugar you won't need the cornflour as it contains it already.

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.

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