Sunday, August 31, 2008

Eee is One!

Little birthday girl, soft against your cheek,
eyes so big and bright, nose you love to tweak.
Livcly little one, sweet as any flower,
dearer by the day, cuter by the hour!
Written on the card received from Granny.

Today is Eee’s first birthday.

It seems not so long since she arrived.

We celebrated it in so many special ways with gifts and extra special hugs, kisses and games. Although we were sad that Daddy is still away, we were delighted that Granny is still here.

Ess and I enjoyed decorating her special birthday cake.

We had some very welcome help from Dulcie the Baking Talent Fairy.

We all enjoyed the pretty cake for afternoon tea after little Eee had explored removing all the petals from her stem of these beautiful flowers – stocks and sweet pea! Sadly not from my garden but from Adelaide Central Markets.

Soon my garden will be in bloom however. I’ll let you know more about that later.

For my precious little one.

Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Before the Plastics Revolution

And Man created the plastic bag and the tin and aluminum can and the cellophane wrapper and the paper plate, and this was good because Man could then take his automobile and buy all his food in one place and He could save that which was good to eat in the refrigerator and throw away that which had no further use. And soon the earth was covered with plastic bags and aluminum cans and paper plates and disposable bottles and there was nowhere to sit down or walk, and Man shook his head and cried: "Look at this Godawful mess." ~Art Buchwald, 1970

Sometimes, when I pull the gladwrap from the roll to cover some food to store in my fridge, I reflect and think “Why am I using this? It is only adding to landfill. Is it really necessary? Do I need such convenience? What alternative do I have? What did they do before we had this option anyway?” My plastic containers which I use to store food were not available years ago. So I am curious about what happened and how people lived then. Not to say that it was all better then, but so we can remember what it was like to live simply before we all got caught up in the consumerism of today’s instant, convenient society. I like to reflect, gain ideas from memories and combine that with my current knowledge of a satisfying way to live.

As Mum is visiting I’ve asked her to remember all she can about what life was like before the ‘Plastics Revolution’.

She remembers the early 1950s when bowl covers came in to cover your containers with food stored in them. Do you recall these? A station-hand’s wife thought they were baby showercaps! An apt description I think. You simply washed and reused them on your china bowls and plates until they wore out and you replaced them at the local department store. “They were such a great innovation because they were just so handy” she reflects. Did anyone consider then whether they were healthy enough, sealing tightly enough, adding to landfill eventually?

Prior to the use of these covers perhaps a plate was put on top of another to cover food. The food was not thrown out. Leftovers were kept to be eaten on another occasion or consumed by the farm animals. Food was not in abundance as it is today and certainly access to a store to buy food was 17 miles away via a dirt road inaccessible after rain.

Waxed and greaseproof paper was used to line cake tins etc. as there were no plastic containers to store your baking. This prevented moisture from the cake coming into contact with the metal and causing it to rust. Paper was also used to wrap sandwiches which were taken ‘up the paddock’ for lunch.

As the convenience of foil and glad wrap came to the fore these papers were removed from common use. You didn’t have to wash gladwrap, you simply threw it away! Using gladwrap meant that you could always find the right shape to cover your container, you weren’t limited by the size of the “baby shower caps” you had available in the drawer. There would always be enough gladwrap to cover anything you needed to – so long as you had maintained your supply.

Food products, such as flour and sugar, were stored at home in large metal canisters and tins or glass jars in the pantry. Stoneware was also used to store some food such as salt. A number of food products were bought in tins and jars and they were reused around the home for food or other storage. The seal on some tins was simply not as good as gladwrap etc. and so the food didn’t remain as fresh. Neither could tins be used in the frig for storage as they would rust, so gladwrap was a convenient substitute, as were plastic containers. Flour started coming in plastic bags after the cloth bags. After being thoroughly washed these were also used for storage when needed. They were used to cover sliced bread as it was placed on the table to serve for a meal. There was a lot of recycling and reusing happening. Bags and containers etc. were disposed of when they wore out.

The advent of plastics has very much changed the method of rubbish disposal. Previously goods came in cloth bags which you often washed and reused for storage or paper which was burnt in an incinerator or to light the wood stove or the open log fire. Now often these things are unthinkable or even illegal. Fortunately we have the choice to recycle paper, some plastics and other containers but not gladwrap and foil! We are dumping an enormous amount of rubbish into the oceans which is killing wildlife. Is that justified?

Regarding food scraps, Mum reflects, “we had a metal bucket made from a fuel can which hung on the awning of the meat house. Vege scraps were carried from the kitchen to the can on a bowl or plate for the chooks to pick at. Meat bones were given to the dog.” I have usually put my scraps in plastic bags, in the bin and then to the main bin. I want to compost them long term for our future garden. However, in the meantime I am changing my habits and reusing our junk mail to carry my scraps to the bin. I am reducing my use of plastic bags when buying fruit and veg by putting items of one price in one bag to weigh and also using cloth bags as much as possible. The girls in our fruit stall think this is fabulous.

Today Mum uses all these types of packaging – apart from the “baby shower caps” which really have gone out of fashion and are simply not readily available are they? I have learnt my habits from Mum and it is only now that I think further about living sustainably that I challenge myself about what to store food in. I very much enjoyed reading this post on Alternatives to Plastic Wrap. Here you can read the results of some research of an environmental scientist now working towards sustainability with her family.

I think at this stage I’d like to store as much as possible in the containers I have in my cupboards whether glass or plastic so as not to add to landfill or experience any chemical leaching from plastic gladwrap onto my food. I’d also like to look more into the use of cellophane for food storage. You can buy food grade cellophane bags on ebay. I have also just purchased some Pyrex dishes with plastic storage lids which I am finding fantastic because Pyrex can be used to bake in and then I can simply place the lid on to store leftover food for next time. Just be careful not to change the temperature of Pyrex too rapidly – it smashes. I learnt this from experience the other week! Storing cooked food in the frig is also a feature of the fabulous waterless Nutrimax pots I use to cook most things in.

How do you reuse and recycle? Do you have gladwrap and foil in your pantry? What alternatives do you have? Do you store in plastic containers?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Preserving Lemons

We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavours and furniture polish is made from real lemons. ~Alfred E. Newman

Sad isn't it!! But not in my house, our real lemons are being preserved for future consumption!

I am not certain what it was that enticed me to preserve lemons in the first place. It is not that I had a recipe for them. It is not that it is part of my family's traditions. Perhaps I simply thought they'd be yum (which they are) or that I simply had an excess of them from Grandad's lemon tree. Whatever it was, I am really glad I preserved them a couple of years ago as we now enjoy them in making Moussaka and casseroles and I'll try them in Moroccan Chicken soon as well.

It is time to preserve some more. I found these lovely jars at IKEA and now have some excess lemons to preserve.
The method for preserving is very simple. It needs to be done over a couple of days however so some planning for your week will stand you in good stead so as not to be caught out on the busiest preservation day.

Firstly break the pores of the lemons by scraping them gently against the medium setting of a grater. Put lemons in a large bowl and cover completely with water. Put aside in a cool place.

Next day, pour the water off the lemons and cover with fresh water. This removes any bitterness.

On the third day pour off the water. Using a sharp knife, make four deep slits in each lemon (they should go about halfway to the centre). Pack each incision with a good heaped teaspoon of rock salt. Ess loved helping with this part. She was master of the salt the whole time.

Place stuffed lemons into a sterilised glass jar (I placed mine in the oven to sterilise them while cooking some breakfast cereal on the same morning).

Add cardamom pods, bay leaves or chillies. We simply added bay leaves as this is what we had available.

Pour boiling water over the contents of the jar and place on the lid while the water is still hot.

Leave for 40 days in a cool place.

Enjoy your preserved lemons and please do share if you know of any great recipes using preserved lemons. I find Maggie Beer's recipes are marvellous so do try her Moussaka mentioned above. She knows exactly what to do to make food fabulous.

Ravioli Felt Food

If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?
~Author Unknown

Inspired once again by the wonderful Mel at Day to Day, we have made some ravioli to add to our Fun Felt Food collection.

I love the way little Ess piled them up on my sewing machine ready to be sewn.

(Except of course I had to remove the stuffing before stitching). She did eventually get the idea of how to be most helpful. Nevertheless the piles look so cute!

All her friends enjoyed them for their afternoon tea yesterday, including Pigley Piggy, Jellyfishy and Jelly.

Now all of this is making me hungry!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mysterious Giggles and Sparkles

In Honour of the creative, playful spirit of my Generous Gentleman and my delightful 4 year old daughter Ess.

And as the seasons come and go, here's something you might like to know.
There are fairies everywhere: under bushes, in the air, playing games just like you play, singing through their busy day.
So listen, touch, and look around - in the air and on the ground.
And if you watch all nature's things, you might just see a fairy's wing.
~Author Unknown

When Daddy first went away on his working trip he told us he was hearing lots of giggles in and around his building. He was very curious about where they might be coming from so he snapped some shots everytime he heard a giggle or saw a sparkle and this is what came up in them.

I see something there!

A fairy ring!

One day Daddy heard a giggle coming from inside the sock lying underneath his bed.

He decided to send the sock home to see if I could find out what made the giggle. When the parcel arrived at our house I opened up the package and found a fairy. Her name was Lily. I tried to turn Lily into a real fairy (because she was a doll). First I tried dipping the edge of her wing into the water. Then when we rang Daddy he said that when you catch fairies they turn into dolls until you're not looking. Lily must be a real fairy because she lives in the cabinet but every time I'm not looking she gets out and flies around. I keep discovering her in other places. Now she has a friend, Prilla, who arrived in another package in another one of Daddy's socks I wonder whether any more fairies will arrive in the mail from Daddy's work.

Do you believe in fairies?

[E]very time a child says, "I don't believe in fairies," there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead. ~James Matthew Barrie, Peter Pan

Monday, August 11, 2008

Nurturing Hands

Women are always beautiful. ~Ville Valo

These are the hands which nurutured me.
The hands that held me, carried me, loved me.
These are the hands that cooked for me, fed me, made clothes for me;
washed, dried and dressed me.
These are the hands that taught me to cook, sew, garden etc.
giving me the skills to care for my family and enjoy living a simple life.

My Mum is visiting me at the moment, spending some time using these hands to help me care for her grandchildren while my Generous Gentleman is away.

It is lovely to connect with her again and watch as relationships develop between her and my children. I love to see the anticipation they show to be with their Granny.

Thanks Mum, it is in times like this that I remember how much you love me!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Budding Bulbs

One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.
~W.E. Johns, The Passing Show

Our bulbs are in bud!

We planted them so long ago, it seems. Back in May was when we put our Bulbs In! There is much anticipation now for what we might see in late winter, early Spring.

There is such satisfaction in gardening, particularly with little ones. I hope Ess never loses her sense of wonder at the world around us and helps to nurture this in her baby sister Eee. Indeed I believe she will always be one who shares this with others.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Make your Own Cocoa Puffs

One of the commitments we have made in our living of a healthier simpler life is to reduce our sugar intake. Generally I choose to bake recipes which contain less sugar or reduce the amount of sugar therein. Most modern recipes have smaller amounts of sugar than those that have been handed down to me from times when sugar was perhaps more cheaply abundant and not considered too bad for your health. I find that replacing sugar, and also salt, with spices (nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice) for flavour is very satisfactory. That’s for all my homebaking, but have you noticed how much sugar is in cereal? Not to mention other additives.

In my quest to have a lower gluten diet for our family many commercial cereals have already been eliminated from our diet, or the quantity consumed substantially reduced. We eat plainer cereal such as puffed rice and millet and corn, quinoa and millet flakes, rolled oats on occasion (as it does contain gluten) with nuts and seeds (well, these are for Mum only). Ess loves these grains also, but as she grows older she wants to have more variety and flavour. We sometimes add a small handful of Cheerios or Nutrigrains to her cereal mix. She also loves the addition of some cocoa and occasionally spices for flavour. This ends up being our own homemade Cocoa Puffs. So if ever there is a supermarket or peer pressured request for Cocoa Pops we can decide to make our own. When you add fresh spices and quality cocoa the flavour is delicious. I never hear any complaints. I must also say that I don’t think Ess has ever had conventional Cocoa Pops.

So the method is simple:

1. Place cereal of your choice in your bowl. Use a greater proportion of crispy rice puffs and add millet puffs, quinoa flakes and millet flakes, rolled oats etc.

2. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of cocoa powder. Please don’t use Nestle baking cocoa powder. The flavour of organic and fair trade cocoa is far superior. Further, see here for some informative links about chocolate and ethically responsible purchasing which avoid supporting the slave trade.

3. Allow your little one to mix and enjoy.

4. Wipe the cocoa faces clean!

I hope you and your family enjoys this homemade cocoa cereal. It may take a while for your tastebuds to adjust if you’re used to sugar in your diet but give it time, use quality ingredients and you will never turn back.

A last word from Ess who is writing this post with me: “I’d like to have just plain rice puffs and cocoa again like I used to – without all the other flakes etc.”

If this appeals to you, you will probably also enjoy my Warm Morning Muesli – a grownups version!

My Generous Gentleman, along with Ess, has also devised a new recipe for Chocolate Crackles using Fairtrade Chocolate which will probably be interesting for some of you. More on that later – if he agrees to allowing me to pass on the recipe!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Children's Sewing Kit We Gave

The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.
~Pierre Corneille, Le Menteur

Now that little Bella has received her Sewing Kit I can show you all that we made in order to participate in the swap and delight young Bella (and her mother :) ).

It's one of my zippered pouches - my own design. Quite large with lots of bits and pieces inside.

The best part of all is that Bella loves it. That is what we all want to hear isn't it. That our swap partners love the results of all the effort and love we put into making and presenting our goodies.

What a lovely swap this has been!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Simple Living and Zippered Pouches

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. ~Hans Hofmann, Introduction to the Bootstrap, 1993

Lately I have been challenged to simplify my life even further. By reading blogs such as Down to Earth and Consumption Rebellion, as well as Day to Day and Towards Sustainability, I am being confronted to think about how we live our life here and ensure that I live true to my own authenticity. I do love reading blogs. They provide raw accounts of what people are doing, how people are living, not advertisement-driven media reports which always have an underlying meaning and agenda.

So along with choices we have already made to achieve the following I wish to add to my dream list of further changes to make. Hopefully soon it will be no longer a dream!

Our current commitments include:

  • Eating organic or low spray food to avoid pesticides and other chemicals but also to support farmers and other local producers with the same visions as us.
  • Preparing food from scratch and not buying packaged products. It's so much healthier, tastes better, is better for us, avoids GST is fun. It also teaches my children the reality of what food, nourishment and sustenance is and how to get it.
  • Cleaning our home without chemicals to avoid toxins coming into our bodies.
  • Walking most of the time. I generally only drive my car 2-3 times per week.
  • Using what I have rather than purchasing more things to clutter our home.
  • Making what I am reasonably able to given time constraints and my abilities.
  • Growing herbs and some greens, as well as some fruit - mainly strawberries.
  • Taking shorter showers
  • Reducing our use of plastic bags

The things I'd like to add to this list include:

  • Growing fruit trees and vegetables.
  • Making compost to be able to enrich soil.
  • Enlarge and use a backyard - this would involve moving house.
  • Use a grey water system as well as a drip water system to maintain a garden.
  • Creatively making more things for our home including things such as clothing, time pieces, rugs, gifts etc.
  • Buying more ethically responsible food to add to our Fairtrade Chocolate and Tea.
Oh the list could go on and on couldn't it. Are you making changes? I'd love to hear about them.

While I am eliminating some unnecessary things in our lives, some necessary ones have spoken. One is that for me to remain sane while my Generous Gentleman is away I need to be actively involved in some creative project most of the time - either in thought or in deed. Hence all the little items you have seen recently. I have always loved sewing and now my passion is being renewed. It is amazing how little children do that for you.

So below you will see my Zippered Pouches. These are wonderful storage for so many things lying around the house as well as for keeping me sane while creating them :)

We are getting ready for spring with these gorgeous little strawberry pouches.

These little strawberry buttons were my own idea and I am delighted with how they have turned out.

This different one Ess uses to store her big bucket of textas. She never could return them to the bucket successfully through the narrow opening so this solves all those problems and looks heaps better. She wants a dress out of the coloured fabric now. Food for thought...

Cloth Baby Shoes

The one thing that children wear out faster than shoes is parents.
~ John J. Plomp, Zoologist

I am so glad I found this pattern and tutorial for Cloth Baby Shoes while my baby is still a baby and young enough to wear them. It makes sewing them seem so much more practical. She will be wearing them out soon as her tiny feet grow and grow ever so quickly.

Aren't they just adorable! They are very cute, which is probably what caught my eye, but they are also very practical. Remember those days when it was impossible to keep socks on your little one? I have found, on recommendation of a friend, that Pumpkin Patch socks are the only ones that will stay on. Yes, they will when you are walking around somewhere - babe in arms. However when baby pulls and grabs them, they come off very easily - just like any sock. Now I have found that when those socks are encased in these cute little shoes, nothing comes off. They are marvellous! Particularly since we are mid-winter and those tootsies seem to be freezing whether in socks or out. So this is my first effort and I'll be making another pair shortly.

Our New Treasure

Lilypie Maternity tickers


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