Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Getting Ready for Christmas - Spiced Chickpeas

I am once again joining in with Fiona and her homemade Christmas series.

As I was sitting down having a bit of lunch, searching for some after school snack inspiration, I came across this great recipe that I thought would make a fabulous Christmas entertaining snack (to accompany a shandy) or gift.

The recipe is really easy and would look great in a glass jar.

I am not the most patient person in the world so for this version I used tinned chickpeas. When I make these next time, I will plan it all much better and rehydrate the peas myself. I am sure the taste would be even nuttier.

How are your Christmas preparations coming along?

Take care

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Getting Ready for Christmas - Tealight Holders

I am joining in with Fiona again but am running a little late.

A couple of months ago an email landed in my inbox asking for people who would be interested in running an activity for an Earthcarers Christmas workshop. The idea being to demonstrate how inexpensive gifts could be made fairly easily. I remembered a Mothers' Day activity I ran last year and thought this would make a great Christmas gift. (Just to let you know that I found this over at Noodlehead - make sure to check out all of the fabulous tutorials)

The first part of the task was to get hold of timber. Buying new timber was never an option so I needed to start thinking about how I would get hold of the materials. I tried a couple of salvage yards but they only really seemed to have jarrah, which is a really hard wood, too hard for this activity. I was sent from one possibility to another and ended up at a sawmill. They let me drive up to a pile of offcuts at the back of their yard and fill the boot.

I chose the pieces that I thought would be the easiest to use and headed over to see Dad. He is one of those mechanically minded people who can build amazing things. He has the right tool for just about any job, as well as the skills to go with it. Every time I use his tools, it reminds me that I want to read What's Mine is Yours.

He cut the pieces to square the corners and then taught me to sand and router the blocks. It was such a lovely way to spent time together in him man cave.

So last Saturday I loaded his ute and headed to the Karrinyup Community Centre. 

It was a slow start to the morning so I decided to use the time to mark where the holes needed to be drilled. This preparation made the 'making' time of the activity a little shorter and more people managed to make a tealight holder.

Dad suggested we put a piece of tape on the 38mm spade-bit drill to the depth of the candle. This way we knew when to stop drilling and the candle would sit at the right height.

All that was really needed then was to sand the holes and either stain or oil the timber.

This piece was oiled. I am not sure what the timber was but with the oiling it looked absolutely beautiful.

 This is one that I had prepared earlier to show what they look like lit. I had stained this one with a jarrah stain.

It was such a great day and thankfully the rain didn't get in our way too much.

Have your Christmas preparations started yet?

Take care

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Getting Ready for Christmas - Peppermint Lip Balm

It is incredible how December 25 just seems to sneak up each year. This year I am planning to be a little more organised. Some Christmas preparedness inspiration from Fiona at Arbordale Farm was just the kickstart I needed.

I don't get too wrapped up in the consumerism of the day as I can generally count the gifts I exchange on one hand. This year is a little different as we will be catching up with parts of the family who usually celebrate the day in many different cities around the world. This will be the first time in 8 years that we have all been together. I don't want to be buying 'stuff' for the sake of it as I find it a waste of effort and money. I want the gifts to be useful and thoughtful and homemade as much as possible.

My little mouse and I tried out a recipe for lip balm I think you might like. This will make great gifts as these are easy to make and easy to transport. (We also managed a bit of 'killing two birds..." as this will also be used as part of little mouse's school project).

We followed a recipe that intrigued me a couple of years ago from SouleMama. At the time, my head was still in a 'this would be way too hard' mindset. I can't believe I waited to long to give it a go.

The ingredients are pretty straight forward and all I needed to get hold of was the beeswax. This I easily tracked down at the Stirling Farmer's Market.

We measured all of the ingredients and made a double boiler using a glass bowl and a saucepan.

The coconut oil, beeswax and honey were all melted together.

Once melted, the peppermint drops were added. We didn't add any lipstick for colour as we were looking for something fairly neutral.

I picked up the tin from a shop in Berlin after I had planned to do something similar last year but I just never seemed to get around to it.

Once the mix cooled and hardened, we thought we would all a peppermint leaf to the top.

This was so much fun to make and the finished product is wonderful. It feels so lovely on your lips.

Take care

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hey, Fellow Chicken-Loving Science Nerds

One of the kiddoes came home telling me about this today so I thought I would share.

Gotta love a kid who questions.

Take care

Monday, October 22, 2012

Conscious Living

I spent a lovely few hours on Saturday at the Earthcarers stall at the Conscious Living Expo. It was lovely to once again be able to talk to people who are interested in living sustainably.

There was an example of worm farming using polystyrene boxes,

how to make polystyrene wicking boxes,

as well as general composting, waste reduction and doggy poo composting.

There is so much interest out there and many people generally want some information and encouragement to get started in taking that first step.

One small step at a time.

Take care

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Conscious Living this weekend

I will be heading down to the Claremont Showgrounds on Saturday as part of the Mindarie Earthcarers. I can't seem to find a great deal of information about the Expo to share with you but this might be enough to inspire you to head along.

Take care

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dehydrating Strawberries

As I lay in bed on Sunday morning reading The Feast Nearby I found the inspiration needed to get up and go to the Stirling Farmers' Market: dehydrated strawberries. Knowing that I would be able to get a box of cooking strawberries for $5, I changed and headed off with fruit basket in hand. As school goes back this week, a selection of apples would also be needed as lunch box fillers.

I wasn't disappointed with my $5 box.

After washing, hulling and slicing (and a bit of eating as payment to kiddo for helping), there were four trays worth of strawberries ready to go into the over. As there are only two shelves in my oven, I laid the fruit on two trays but also on two airing racks on top of the trays.

You can see the layer of sliced fruit under the rack.

Then the slow process started.

As strawberries contain a lot of water, I read that it is important to leave the door of the oven ajar. My oven is one of those appliances that I am looking forward to breaking down: the door doesn't work properly, there is no window in the door and there is no interior light. I managed to keep the door slightly open by using a wooden spoon to let the moisture escape. (The temperature was so low that the wood was fine.)

After two hours 

After four hours 

After six hours

After eight hours

After 10 hours

After 12 hours

By this time I was off to bed so I turned the oven off and opened the door to let the air and moisture out. 

In the morning some were still a little moist so I turned the oven back onto that low heat. The main mistake was that in my morning hazy-brain I didn't remove the ones that were pretty dry. This meant that at the end some were a little crunchy rather than chewy as I think they were a bit cooked rather than dried. I am pretty sure that these will still be great stirred through some yoghurt.

Final product.

Things I would do differently next time.
  • Slice the strawberries into pieces of the same thickness, rather than halve and quarter.
  • Use drying racks only rather than baking paper.
  • I would love to try this with a solar dryer.
I remember that last time I tried dehydrating fruit, pears were a huge hit. It was like these had been coated in sugar. They were delicious.

What do you dehydrate?

Take care

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ladybird, ladybird...

don't fly away home. Please stay on the lime tree.

We have been having a bit of an issue with bugs (aphids I am presuming) taking up residence on the lime tree. Having tried a few homemade concoctions which worked for a while, we were starting to get a little frustrated. The rocket in the front garden had gone to seed and it was time to get something new in that space. When the old plants were pulled out, I noticed quite a few ladybird on the leaves. These gorgeous garden-helpers were transferred to the troubled lime tree and have been munching away all afternoon.

I hadn't realised that there were so many types of ladybirds.

These beautiful bugs always make me giggle when I think of the scene from A Bug's Life when the fly thinks that Francis the ladybird must be a girl. I have to remind myself that there have to be male ladybirds out there, otherwise we wouldn't have any baby ladybirds.

How do you deal with pests in the garden?

Take care

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Spring Sewing: Kid's Messenger Bag

Sometimes (most of the time) the daily jobs around the house just need to take a back seat and something fun and challenging needs to be done. Something that will get the brain excited and interested.

This week one of my oldest friends is heading over for morning tea. She has a four year old so I have told her to come over ready to collect some eggs. (I have my fingers crossed that the girls won't let me down.) I saw this as excuse to get behind the sewing machine again: something that I love to do but don't seem to make the time. I came across a fabulous tutorial for a kid's messenger bag and thought this would make the perfect egg collecting bag as it fits half an egg carton.

The pattern is really straight forward and I am so pleased with the result. I would probably just change the way that I top stitch the lining but I figured that a four year old won't notice. Adding wadding to the strap is a great way to make it softer on a kiddoe's shoulder and give the strap so much more structure.

I have a few more of these planned for Christmas but will make the strap a little longer for older kiddoes.

What have you been making?'

Take care

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday in the Garden

It always feels so rewarding to spend some time in the garden. I have barely put a dent in my 'to do' list but thankfully still feel as though I have accomplished something today.

The broad beans are looking good. I can't wait to crack open those furry pods and get into the beans.

The tomatoes have been staked up a little better so the sunlight should see these gorgeous green fruit start turning a luscious red pretty soon.

Delicious greens with a new layer of sheep manure added. They are just waiting for the fresh straw layer to be added.

The lemon tree I planed out the front a few months ago is starting to look a little more promising and a little less stick-like. Some sheep manure and lovely homemade compost was dug in around the base. Fingers crossed these little buds will transform themselves into fruit.

The strawberries are fruiting. I have never tried growing strawbs before so an pretty delighted with what is happening. More straw needs to be added to this bed too.

I have been lucky to have some more great compost surprises. Compost added to the base of one of the fruit trees a few weeks ago saw a great crop of tomato seedling. These will be sent out into the world later this week as part of Sow Give Grow.

A few tomatoes were planted out in some polystyrene boxes that I found. A basil plant was also moved to keep them company as these are great companion plants.

I turned my back on the dwarf apricot tree for a matter of seconds (okay, weeks) and I have come back to find nearly a dozen fruit on it. Last year two fruit were harvested but this was while we where in Berlin. Apparently these were delicious.

The blueberries are starting to fruit too.

On the weekend we generally let the girls have a go at other parts of the yard. This is when we can keep an eye on them and check that they aren't getting into anything they shouldn't. I pulled out a few spinach plants that weren't doing too well and these were devoured very quickly leaving only the soil covered roots ready to be added to the latest compost. I can't wait to see what sort of eggs we get his this. Yum.

How is your garden going?

Take care

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Another Day at the Royal Show

I was back at the Perth Royal Show for another day at the Earthcarers stall and what a great day!

The weather was much milder and it was so lovely to spend time talking to interested and interesting people about reducing waste. As I said before, it seems that so many people are wanting to live more sustainably, but have a barrier of not knowing where to start.

So here is a look around the Earthcarers stall.

 One of the Earthcarer mascots, made completely of reused materials.

 Another mascot in the backgraound. The face is made of an ironing board so the legs of the board can be moved to open and close the mouth.
The wicking bed in the middle has been made of materials found in bulk rubbish, as were the esky gardens in the front.

 Here are a couple of the worm farm options: the front one is a DIY polystyrene option and the other being a commercial farm.
(Doesn't every wheelbarrow need a knitted cover?!)

A game for kiddoes to categorise waste.

E-waste display.

The fridge wormfarm. This really got a lot of people interested.
(A great step-by-step here, just scroll down the page a little.)

The solar oven. This was one of my highlights. We tried cooking a cake and were off to a great start but then the clouds closed in and the rain started to fall. Oh, well.

At the end of my shift I went for quick look around some of the other exhibitions. I had been to the dogs and poultry displays on Monday but knew what else I wanted to see.

The baking and preserves!



Fruit cake!

And the cake decorating.

What an amazing cake. It is an hanging, tiered wedding cake.

Feeling peckish, and a little uninspired by most of the fast food options, I stumbled across a gozleme stall on its own, away from the other food outlets. I was filled with excitement knowing that I could have a freshly made, vegetarian snack full of real ingredients. And what else do you do when eating a piping hot gozleme? Watch sheep dogs, of course.

It was a great afternoon and I didn't even have to set foot in sideshow alley to have a fabulous time.

Take care
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