Sunday, December 22, 2013

salt dough christmas decorations

Sparkly star, beaded necklace and Christmas bell.
Me and the big one cutting out the Christmas shapes.
Mistletoe, snowman and stocking.

While the little one napped, me and the big boy made salt dough Christmas decorations. We rolled the dough and cut them in to shapes and left them in the oven on very low for almost 3 hours. I used this recipe and added a tablespoon of cinnamon spice so they smelled "christmasy" but I think that defeats the problem of ants. We do have a major indoor ant problem at the moment! At first we used glitter glue but it was not very effective. After they dried we brushed kids craft glue on the shapes and then poured loose glitter and they came out brilliant. We painted the snowman white before adding glitter so the shape was more defined. The decorations are so beautiful on our tree.

Wishing everyone a Merry Xmas! Stay cool in all this heat and drive safe if you have to travel.  I'll be on a little break but I will still check my favourite blogs for a night cap read.

See you all in the New Year!


Thursday, December 19, 2013

almond meal cake with strawberries and cream

Happy first birthday to our little bumblee.

We went on a tour about how fish are bred and raised at the Gaden Trout Hatchery.

Archie squealed in delight every time the fish splashed around when fed.

 And then we went home for cake!

Almond Meal Cake with Strawberries and Cream

1 1/2 cups of Almond Meal
1/4 cup Organic Self Raising Flour
200g Unsalted Butter
1 cup of Caster Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
4 eggs
300ml Double Cream
Strawberries to decorate cake

Preheat oven 180ºC
  1. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla bean paste until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at time.
  2. Fold in the almond meal and self raising flour with a wooden spoon.
  3. Spoon the mixture in to a lined 20cm cake pan.
  4. Bake in oven for 50 mins or until cake comes away from the sides of the pan. Let cake pan cool for 10 mins before turning on to a wire rack.
  5. Lightly whisk double cream.
  6. Spread jam on top of cake (I used Hanks Jam) and then whisk cream and top with strawberries (ours were from our garden).
I took a fairly unhealthy recipe and made it simpler and healthier. I think it was the perfect summery cake for a first birthday. Happy special day little one. xx

Sunday, December 15, 2013

sewing a pillow with kids

Every time I sit in front of the sewing machine Max is there breathing down my neck and tapping me on the shoulder asking, "When can I use that machine?" I let him sit on my lap and sew on fabric scraps and  recently I thought he was more than ready for a sewing project to make mostly by himself.

We followed a project in a DK book I found in the bargain bin from our local post office. Max is 6 years old and this was his first proper sewing project. Instead of cutting out the pattern I simplified it and cut a round shape.

I used what I had in my stash: permanent fabric markers and cotton white fabric. The embroidery hoop kept the fabric nice and taut so it was easier to draw on.

Putting the right sides together and pinning the fabric together. I used the embroidery hoop again so it was easy for Max to pin the fabric by himself.

I sat Max on my lap and he was able to sew all the way around reminding him to leave a big enough gap to fill the pillow later. I cut the fabric with a 1/4 inch seam; that part of the fabric was not coloured in so it was obvious for Max to follow the white line.

Turning the fabric inside out. We left a fairly wide gap so he could fit his whole hand in there.

Stuffing the pillow with polyster fibre fill. I am on the look out for affordable natural wool filling.

Hand sewing the pillow shut. I gave him the longest needle I could find and he had no problems with it.

Almost done...I had to sew in some gaps after he'd finished. 

It was such a fun afternoon together. I have two boys so it has crossed my mind that I might miss out on these kinds of activities with my children but as you can see, this is not the case at all, much to my delight.

This is the perfect beginner project for a 6 year old and it is so treasured because he made it with his own two hands. Soulemama has a similar project in this book we have at home and I recommend both books. We will be making more homemade toys together and special gifts for the little one. Rob has even voiced his interest in making wooden toys.

Creating things together is one of my "family traditions" I have been fostering to keep our family life simplified. It's nuturing and builds wonderful childhood memories.

Do you make things with your children? This week we made Christmas decorations and now I must get ready for Carols by Candlelight...oh and happy sewing with your children!

Friday, December 13, 2013

strawberries and spelt scones

First strawberry harvest of the season.

Strawberry seedlings were gifted to us from friends.

Even the little one is helping.

After-school pickings.

Replenishing the worm farm.

Pikelets for little fingers.

 Another after-school harvest.

Garden friends.

Mama's turn to harvest.
Rustic strawberry spelt scone with coconut sugar.

It has been strawberry heaven over here. Last spring my lovely friend planted some of her strawberry seedlings in our garden. Rob filled the beds with a trailer load of mushroom compost and dutifully waters our strawberries but the children and I have been enjoying the fruits of his labour. I'm unsure of the variety. Anyone recognise these blissful strawberries?

After school pick-up we arrive home and harvest strawberries together. This peaceful break centres us before the afternoon rush to bring in washing and start dinner and before the somewhat noisy bath and bed time affair. At first we pick and eat strawberries like possums but later as the crop became abundant we would fill a bowl every couple of days for some sweet baking. Max is a really good fruit picker and I already have visions of him "WWOOFing" around the world when he finishes high school.

The little one has been getting in on the action too. A few times he has shoved whole strawberries in his mouth before I can catch him. There seems to be less of a choking hazard than the store bought variety: Homegrown is so soft and sweet and dissolves blissfully in your mouth.

Strawberry recipes we've enjoyed are pikelets, a strawberry shortcake and scones. I always make english scones but I've been dying to try American scones. I've adapted closely from this recipe but replaced some refined ingredients with wholefoods. This is how I made mine.

Rustic Strawberry Spelt Scones

1 cup of strawberries cut in to small pieces
3 tbs coconut sugar
2 cups of wholemeal spelt
2 tsp of baking powder (aluminium free)
1/4 tsp salt (idodised and aluminium free)
90g butter
180ml buttermilk

Preheat oven 200ºC
  1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, add butter and combine with fingers until crumbly
  2. Pour in buttermilk and add chopped strawberries
  3. Combine ingredients gently in to a ball and place on lightly floured surface
  4. Place baking paper over lightly floured ball and roll in to a round disc about 2cm thick
  5. Cut in to wedges and transfer to cookie sheet
  6. Bake for 15 mins
These scones are not very sweet so you could definitely eat them for breakfast without feeling guilty - we did! Also extra yum with strawberry jam and butter:)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

healthy lunch box

Safcol Tuna in springwater, whole egg mayonnaise, english spinach, seasonal fruit and homemade chocolate and nut biscuits.

Free range chicken, whole egg (cage free) mayonnaise, english spinach in a Mountain bread wrap, seasonal fruit salad and wholemeal crackers (no preservatives) cream cheese and sultanas (sulphur free).

Preservative free ham, cheese and english spinach on wholemeal; apple and grapes; homemade simple muffin with butter.

The first year of Kindy is almost over and I thought it would be a good time to reflect on Max's lunch box. When Max started school I had an almost 2 month old baby so I wanted to make sure I could still put together a healthy lunchbox that was preservative free, easy to make, free of wasteful packaging and delicious enough that he would eat it all.

I bought a special lunch box from here to mark his milestone of going to school like a big boy. It's free of nasty chemicals, has compartments to divide food in to and comes with sheets of "cool" alaphabet and picture stickers for your child to put on the lid. There is no need for clingwrap so this solved the packaging issue.

Max is an energetic child and a big eater and loves all kinds of food so most of the time his lunchbox was empty at school pick-up or he would finish leftovers in the car. More often than not I would have to bring him a snack because he would be "starving" straight after school.

Keeping it real: There were a few things I compromised on, such as buying washed mixed lettuce and sliced cheese (no preservatives). Prior to Archie I would never even think of such conveniences or the added expense and would wash all my lettuces and cut my own cheese. I am not a moring person and with a new baby I had a lot more to do in the morning. This was a convenience I was willing to pay for to make those rushed early mornings a little easier and still prepare a healthy lunch with variety.

Our school has a Nut Free Policy so I had to stop making sweets with nuts. I was use to baking with almonds, pecans and walnuts. Nuts are so good for dry skin amongst other benefits and add an interesting texture and flavour. I believe children adapt a sophiscated palate if they are given real foods from the start. Real food can taste good and be fun. I believe food marketed at children are often inferior products and my child is not inferior and neither is yours. (Not a dig at mamas but at the food companies!) Okay, getting back to the nuts, instead I would make blueberry and carrot muffins.

I envisioned getting back to bread making and cooking big pieces of meat for lunches but often I manage to select the best pre-made food and combine it with what I made at home. I'm proud of what I have accomplished this year and proud of my son's compliments and gratefulness.

More realness: There were many times I had to put a lunch order in through out the year and one time every day for a whole week! Thankfully, there are some decent options and the lovely canteen lady makes fresh batches of anzac biscuits daily. I don't believe in denying my son sweets as he eats a wide variety of foods and I don't have to manipulate him to eat his dinner. He just eats dinner because I taught him that dinner is a part of life and it is a good thing, a happy thing to enjoy. Although, he's still a child and occasionally tries his luck for ice cream at breakfast.

Next year I will make cold snacks for the warmer months, such as fruit yoghurts with these. In winter I would like to send him to school with hot soup in a thermos. In this country, there is no such thing as an indoor cafeteria area. In a snow region it would be very useful to our school but instead the children eat at their desks in winter on really bad weather days; otherwise they eat cold meals outside on cold concrete! 

Warm food is very beneficial and nourishing to the body especially that time of year when cold and flu's are prevalent. Once again I would take advantage of ordering my son a hot lunch from the canteen. But many times I would "homeschool" him when he had the sniffles...

Warm nourishing pumpkin soup. Winter, June 13

 Learning to read Waddle Giggle Gargle by Pamela Allen and hand drawn illustration of the book cover. Making wrapping paper by painting nature stencils. Summer, Nov 13

Thank you for staying tuned in to a very long tale. I really appreciate it! Please tell me about your children's lunch boxes and does your child's school have an indoor cafeteria?

Friday, November 15, 2013

the cost of food

Raised garden beds repurposed from the box that carried our communities UV water filter.

Possum and kangaroo proofing the garden.

Our garden now. Our garden in winter.

Why is there always an abundance of garlic in our supermarkets from overseas when garlic is so easy to grow here. Local variety in taste and smell is so much more pungent and delicious. Photo taken November 2012.

The truth is, I spend a lot of money on food. I shop a few times a week and never add up the receipts for fear of the truth. I convince myself because I hardly buy any packaged food and avoid artificial additives and preservatives that somehow it is cheaper but it is definitely not! I buy organic often and wherever I can get it. Where we live there is only a relatively small supermarket so I supplement my shopping with a Healthfood store in the next town and for a long time I was able to pick up an organic box that was delivered in to my town.

We are a 'live to eat' kind of family and we increasingly get dissatisfied with the taste of meat and produce including packaging that accompanies food with shopping at supermarkets but unfortunately don't have that much choice at the moment. I do my best with what is available at the time and reassess how much money I have left in my fortnightly budget.

I don't save! I'm not even quite sure what 'balancing a budget' really entails. I am however a proud homemaker. I've raised a beautiful, creative and confident son who is very kind and caring. I am busy raising another beautiful son. There are new traditions I am creating for our family that will hopefully be passed on.

But there is so much more I could be doing in the home to make a difference. We are renters. The wellness and longevity of a family involves long term planning, strategic thinking and budgeting just like a corporate business. These are important areas I need to invest mindful time and energy in to, especially the latter.

Our garden is very challenging. What we thought was now finally animal proof is feral rabbit friendly. And lets not talk about the reappearing frost and ferocious winds! We need to learn how to grow sufficient food in these conditions.

I am grateful to have found Rhonda who continually reminds and inspires 'us simple lifers' on our true path to contentment through the home and to be part of this sharing and supportive community.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

beginner quilter

Quilting a mat

Quilting a sewing machine cover

After longing to make beautiful quilts for five years but finding it all too overwhelming, I am incredibly determined after the birth of my second child this year. We are definitely not having any more children and I knew this was my last chance to learn the art of quilting and make beautiful blankets for the family before I have to go back to work. Armed with a very good beginners book I was still clueless on how to make a quilt! Even after asking (silly) questions kindly answered by the talented ladies in the craft section of our local hardware store. That is, until I found this simple tutorial on how to sew a quilted mat and and how to sew a quilted sewing machine cover tutorial. If you have never quilted before, I highly recommend both of these tutorials as a very good starting point. You don't need a sewing stash or even know how to cut squares, just purchase one charm pack and you have enough fabric to make both projects. Before you know it, you'll be taking those photos where you proudly hold up your beautiful quilted blanket spread across your body with only your head, arms and legs poking out. I can't wait to do that.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

kitchen scenes

Family dishes: Fish patties with shallots and green beans; Garlic and coriander chicken with baba ganoush dip; Sri Lankan curry feast with cauliflower rice.

Fortnightly cooking ritual for baby: fruit and savoury medleys for freezing using seasonal and organic produce - apples, pears, carrots, sweet potatoes. Thrown in the mix some frozen peas, corn and organic blueberries. Freshly mashed up banana and avocado. In addition, carefully selected store bought organic baby food. Keeping it simple and fresh as possible...anticipating the diversity of Spring and Summer produce!
Max (always on his own initiative) selecting and preparing snacks and mastering his knife skills.

Monday, September 16, 2013

fairy garden for boys

Max asked for help to create a mini camping scene from a book he borrowed at the library. I was so delighted because I adore the fairy gardens over here. It's wonderful when my son and I are on the same page which just so happens is quite often - usually of the sweet and crafty kind. Mini garden accessories are now on the op-shop list and the rest can be made with branches, bark and stones. Looking forward to our 'mini' Spring collaborations.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

spring family food

This year our winter food theme was homemade pies, along with the usual slow cooked meat and vegetable tagines for dinner and simple vegan soups for lunch.

For spring, we are currently cooking delicious recipes from Healing Foods by Sanda Ramacher. Thankfully we don't suffer from any of the afflictions (listed on the cover) that many people struggle with these days. I bought the book several years ago because I wanted to expand my wholefood cooking repetoire with homemade yoghurt and almond meal.

There are so many amazing cook books at the moment (like I Quit Sugar) that are grain, gluten free, sugar free and lactose free and I am so tempted to buy but can not since the self imposed 'no buying of new cook book rule' until we actually make our way through most of the recipes from our big pile of already bought cook books!

Do you find that you often use a few recipes over and over again from your cook books while many have never been tried even once?

We'll be cooking from Healing Foods all spring while we help hubby get his health back on track and get things a bit more balanced while he is doing the no carbs, no sugar thing.

Perfect family spring dishes to me are little patties of goodness such as Chicken Burgers made with macadamia and cashew nuts, garlic, shallots, coriander, grated lemon rind, egg whites and salt and pepper. Pumpkin chips (more like pumpkin hooks) baked in organic coconut oil and steam greens. I like to drench mine in lemon juice and flaxseed oil. All made with good things from our local health food shop.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

around the lake

A walk around the lake and a bit of sunshine on a cold winters day was very much enjoyed after a long "croupy" school holiday.

Monday, July 22, 2013

snow day


A magical morning enjoyed by all the local children right in their own backyard! We usually experience the cold temperatures with just some snow dustings here and there. It's a lovely moment to savour, even just briefly before the sun melts it all away. It was wonderful to find Mr 5 out there busily making a snowman. After a long and tiring week tending to a sick croupy family a nice wintery surprise was just what the doctor ordered to lift our spirits.