Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Insourcing...growing, baking, making hay while the sun shines...

I haven't done an insourcing tally for a while, as I've been a bit all over the place with fatigue and generally being busy and whatnot, so having had what I would call a more normal week this week, I thought I'd give you an update on all things DIY.
First of all, our fruit trees, just 3 years old this Summer, are really starting to kick on. This is the fifth harvest so far this season, and one of the most rewarding. There were 3 pawpaw, 20 cumquats, 5 lemons, Makrut lime leaves for Thai cooking (formerly known as Kaffir lime), and heaps and heaps of lavender. There are figs, Tahitian limes, Pineapple oranges (so called for their colour), more lemons, and more pawpaw coming along. Remember these trees are planted into what is more or less road base and clay, and they're doing brilliantly. Just one or two fruit trees, things that you like to eat or preserve, can save you so much money, and the feeling of picking and eating your own produce just cannot be beaten. Pawpaw particularly here in the tropics, grow from sapling to fruit producing in just one year! I love them. They're so much sweeter than the supermarket version, and in addition to eating them fresh, I pick the green ones to make Thai salads.
Our favourite is Thai Noodle salad:
Cook flat rice noodles according to instructions and drain well, covering with cold water to stop them cooking and to cool them. Slice cherry tomatoes, shred Makrut (Kaffir) lime leaves without the stem, and any other crunchy vegetables you have on hand eg. carrot/cucumber/capsicum, half a grated green pawpaw or green mango, and red onion or green shallots (spring onions). Make a dressing with 1/4 cup lime juice (bottled is fine), 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 1 tablespoon soft brown sugar, and a good pinch of dried chilli seeds or a sliced fresh chilli. Toss everything together and garnish with fresh chopped mint and coriander. Serve topped with crushed peanuts or cashews.

 Annabel at The Bluebirds are Nesting has a series going called The Home Pharmacy. Annabel and I think alike on matters of good health, and she's got me all enthused about essential oils as home pharmacy items for general wellbeing and keeping the bugs at bay. She motivated me to resurrect my Mums old copy of The Fragrant Pharmacy by Valerie Ann Worwood. What a treasure trove of tips and ideas this book is, and it's still available out there. I highly recommend it as an encyclopaedia of essential oils and their uses.

Meanwhile while leafing through the book, I found a handwritten recipe in my Mums handwriting for something called Thieves blend. I'd never heard of it, but Annabel clearly had, as she mentions in her post here. Annabel will soon be posting her experiences and her own Thieves blend, so stay tuned to her blog on that.

I made up Mums blend and found it a bit heavy on the Clove Oil, but I've rectified that and I'll share how successful it is as a guard against the nasty flus and colds.

Whist on the essential oils, I made up a Home Deodorising blend. This is just equal parts Bicarb Soda (Baking soda to my U.S. friends), Cornflour (Cornstarch), and essential oils to your taste. For me, that's 3 dessertspoons each of the Bicarb and Cornflour, and 30-40 drops of essential oil. This one I did in Lavender, my favourite, but you can use any scent you like. This was sprinkled over carpets and microfiber couches, cushions and mattresses, and rugs, left for an hour, then vacuumed thoroughly. The house went from stale and musty after recent rain, to fresh and sweet, just like that. I decant mine into cute recycled single serve yoghurt pots. I poke holes in the lids with a heated metal skewer, and make sure the lid is firmly attached before shaking, as they're not THAT secure. You can also glue them into place if you're gifting this, but it means you can't then refill them.

I made my Depression Era Three Ingredient Fruit Cake, keeping half for us, and gifting the other half wrapped in foil and kitchen twine, and decorated with labels that Annabel had sent me for Christmas. Thanks Annabel. I absolutely love these!
To that basic mixture, I added two eggs and 50gms (1 1/2 tablespoons) of melted butter, to make them a little more luxurious. I also added chopped preserved ginger and chopped almonds. They're delicious, and so easy. This time I soaked the fruit in half coconut milk, and half chocolate flavoured coconut water. The flavour is subtle, but lovely.
One batch of mixture made two loaf cakes and a dozen muffin sized ones, so it's very economical.

I wrapped one large loaf, and two small muffin sized ones for gifting.

I've seen fruit cake wrapped exactly like this in kitchen foil and kitchen twine, selling in a posh deli near us for $6.95 for the small, and $22.95 for the loaf. So don't go thinking foil and twine are too humble!
I baked not one but two batches of my Gluten Free Oat Free Anzac cookies, and they get eaten as fast as I can make them!

Those cumquats I harvested? Well they were turned into Mums Cumquat Marmalade....

More pretty labels from Annabel...thankyou...
...and some of my Mums handwritten recipes...
I made flavour infused gourmet salts for gifting as well. I just did tiny ones in those little crafting bottles. Just enough to season a roast or two or a whole fish once or twice. They look super cute. I did Matcha, and Lemon Zest. They'll go into upcoming hamper gifts.

 So all up a good week. In terms of financial value, I've generated savings on produce of around $50, and savings on gifts of well over $200.

$250 in retail value for a couple of hours of my time, is pretty good, I think.

How about you?

Do you insource? What are your favourite DIY strategies?


Monday, February 26, 2018

Homespun Things.....Gluten Free Anzac oats...

We love our traditional Aussie Anzac biscuits, but with someone in the household that is gluten and oats intolerant, they were a lost treat for a while.
But where there's a will, there's a way, right?
So here's my Gluten Free, Oats free Anzac biscuit recipe...
You don't need much of the Quinoa flakes, and the sesame seeds replace the nutty flavour usually given by the oats.
You'll love them.
Gluten Free, Oat Free Anzac Biscuits (Cookies)
Makes 18-20
125gms (4 tablespoons) butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup, honey, maple syrup or molasses
1 cup all purpose plain gluten free flour blend
2 teaspoons baking soda (NOT bicarbonate of soda)
1 cup Quinoa flakes
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).
Line 2-3 baking trays with baking paper.
Put butter and golden syrup (or substitute) in a microwave safe jug, and heat, stirring occasionally till the butter melts, and it's well combined.
While that's melting, add all the other ingredients except for the hot water, to a large bowl.
Add the melted butter and syrup, and the hot water to the dry ingredients, and mix well until it forms a dough.
Roll into balls, place on baking trays, and flatten slightly with a fork.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Allow to cool on trays, then store in an airtight container.
These are so delicious, you'll be making a second batch within the week, I promise!

They're a great lunch box filler, and a bit more sturdy than a slice of cake for the rough and tumble of school bags

But honestly, they're just as lovely as a morning or afternoon tea with the girls.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Motherly Advice...How to answer the question 'Should I or Shouldn't I?'...

How to answer to the question 'Should I or shouldn't I?'

I read interestedly, the dilemma of someone I know vaguely, aired on social media this week. This person had spent some years living abroad, and had adopted some of the habits of the general population in her adopted third world country, bringing them home and attaching a normality to them that is not upheld where she now lives. She asked whether we shared her view of normality of this particular habit, as she had experienced some criticism of late and wanted a barometer to assess whether she was unreasonable, or the other person was.

In this particular instance, the resounding response was that if a thing is not viewed as 'normal' where you now live, then perhaps it's time to review that habit. What is undoubtedly normal in one part of the world, can be a real social no-no, elsewhere.

This made me think of all the times in our life, when we ask ourselves 'should I or shouldn't I', and I felt it was a subject worth raising here.

Generally speaking, we were raised to make our own mistakes and learn from them, and learn we did. Often the hard way, but never with risk to life or limb or harm to ourselves or others.

We were also raised to respect our bodies and view them as a home for our spirit, and to treat our one and only earthly vessel for that spirit well, for it is the only one we get. This one idea saved my siblings and I from many dangers that were the scourge of our generation and subsequent ones, in the form of drugs, cigarettes, inappropriate food and lifestyles that are not conversant with a 'home harbouring a spirit life'.

Mum taught us too, to value family above all. That means family comes first, no matter what. Sometimes that means making difficult decisions, but as the old saying goes, blood is thicker than water, and we support family above and beyond all else.

So if you're asking yourself 'should I or shouldn't I', perhaps ask yourself these 9 questions...

1. If I do this, do I harm myself or anyone else in the process?

2. In saying yes or no to a request being made of me, do I sacrifice something of myself that I am not willing to surrender?

3. If I do this, do I harm my body, mind, heart or spirit?

4. If I do this, do I damage my relationship with those who I consider most important in my life, remembering that even the friendships that we consider equally important alongside family relationships come and go over a is forever. If your family relationships are not what you might call 'forever', then insert those people who represent 'family' to you.

5. In doing this thing, or saying yes to this request, am I contradicting a fundamental personal belief?

6. Will I regret this?

7. Will I be ashamed of this at some point in the future?

8. Is this something I would tell to my grandmother, or my grandchildren? And if not, why not?

9. What is my gut feeling on this matter? Me? I could have saved myself much grief over the years, if I had simply trusted my gut feeling. So many times, I've pressed ahead with a course of action, not feeling quite right about the other people involved for some reason or other, and lived to regret it. Trust your instincts. We humans have enormous capacity for detecting something 'not quite right', and we've come to ignore it, believing that our superior intellect means we can ignore 'gut'.

Look after mind, body, spirit, and heart. The rest will follow.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Homespun Things...Matcha Tea and it's uses....

By reputation, Matcha tea helps with relaxation, alertness, weight loss, fat burning, reduces the risk of heart disease, and fights bacteria, viruses and fungi.
It's actually made from the dried and ground younger buds of the Camellia Sinensis bush, the very same one that produces the regular green tea with which we're all a little more familiar. The younger buds pack a powerful health punch and are highly valued in Japanese cuisine.
Worth a try, right?
My first experience with Matcha powder was not encouraging.
It was dispensed to me as a green powder to which I was advised by my Chinese practitioner of the day, to add to juice or water and drink like a shot.
I can tell you this did not go well.
It just Like drinking grass clippings or something.
Not appetising. There was much gagging and cursing each morning whilst I tried to stomach the green swill, until I simply decided, health benefits or not, that it wasn't for me.
That's going back about 12 years ago before Matcha was a 'thing' made palatable by Starbucks lattes, and Singaporean sponge cakes.

These days I'm a bit more savvy.
Matcha tea powder is really, really  good for you. But then you probably already knew that. If you thought drinking green tea was dosing you up on anti-oxidants, then you need to know that Matcha has at least triple the goodness in one single cup.
I've learned to add it to all manner of things here. It does have a herbaceous sort of flavour for sure, so drinking it dissolved in water, for me, is not appetising at all. BUT sprinkling it into a smoothie, adding it's vivid green goodness to a cake batter or cookie dough, turning it into a latte with Almond milk and honey, or turning white chocolate a pretty shade of green to use as a that's good.
Add it to a smoothie and you get a gorgeous colour and a gorgeous boost to your already healthy start to the day.
There's all the traditional sorts of uses to which I was introduced when I got Matcha serious.
Here are a few more I've used since:
1. Sprinkle on top of savoury toast spreads or scrambled eggs for colour and flavour
2. Add to a cup of broth
3. Add to meatloaf for a lovely light flavour boost and all those anti-oxidants
4. Add it to iced tea
5. Mix it with yoghurt or coconut water for a fab popsicle
6. Sprinkle it into any cake, cookie or muffin batter. It produces a gorgeous colour and adds a really lovely, delicate flavour.
7. Add to pancake or crepe batter (St Patricks Day here we come!)
8. Add it to cocktails or mocktails either as a colour and flavour, or sprinkled as a garnish
9. Use it to garnish casseroles and savoury bakes and pies...even sprinkle a touch around the edges of your plates as a garnish
10. Add it to brownies and fudge for health benefits
11. Matcha Vanilla Chia Pudding is delicious and healthy
12. Whisk it with any milk or milk alternative and add sweetener if desired for a truly relaxing latte
I'll add more as they come to me.
Give it a try. It's well worth it.
Have you tried Matcha?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Recipes in Four Sentences...Tangy Citrus Cream Dessert...

Got a surplus of citrus?
Don't know what to do with it?
Here's some ideas...
Lemon Cream
For 4 serves
Add 2 heaped tablespoons of caster sugar to a half a cup of hot tap water, and sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons plain gelatine, stirring to dissolve both. Add this to 4 heaped tablespoons plain Greek Yoghurt (I use home made), 2 teaspoons of lemon essence or juice and zest of half a lemon, and whisk well. Add about a cup of stiffly whipped cream, and fold through carefully to preserve the air in the whipped cream. Spoon into glasses or ramekins and garnish with lemon zest, chilling for at least one hour.
I had two tins of Dream Whip in the fridge from a party in January, so I cheated and measured a cup of Worked brilliantly, but my U.S. friends probably know that. I don't know what else to do with the stuff!

This is so yummy and rich, you'll think you're at a five star restaurant ;-)
Those citrus...oranges, lemons, cumquats, limes...can also be baked into little cakes. These days I cheat again, and use a good gluten free cake mix and just add zest and juice to it.

I have all of those growing...yum...
I like to bake my little cakes in heart shapes. Why not make life pretty while I'm at it, right?

And of course, crepes served with lemon juice and sugar is a childhood treat that I've never tired of.

How do you deal with an excess of fruit?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Motherly Advice...taking a mini break at home...

Do you ever feel like you've just had enough of everyone and everything?
You usually notice it when suddenly the most innocuous request sends you into a flap.
Someone says 'where's my socks', and it's all you can do to refrain from screaming  'they're in the #@&* drawer where they always are if you'd just open your eyes'.
It's then that you know you need a break. It doesn't have to be a long break. Mini breaks are a great tonic for the flagging carer in all of us. And we are ALL carers in our own fashion aren't we? Some of us care for small children, school aged children, offspring in tertiary education or their first jobs, partners, parents, friends and loved ones. Some of us have made a profession of caring for others.
We ALL care for someone in our lives.
And that means that sometimes, we ALL need a break.
We took a mini break recently.
A bit of sand and surf and a pretty view is very rejuvenating.
But we've just as often taken a mini break at home. We simply stop answering phones, turn off the technology, read, sleep, walk, and take it easy.
It takes some discipline, but it can be done. Granted, more difficult with young children, but there comes a time for all of us when we can take time out for ourselves, and instead of feeling compelled to fill our days with busy, it's refreshing to see two or three days of nothing as a good thing.
We enjoy the garden we've spent 15 years planting and nurturing...
We take time to walk our own neighbourhood with all of it's hidden treasures...

..this little creek runs along a gorgeous walking path near our home, but it's a bit creepy walking it alone as a woman (we actually had someone the media named The Bike Path Rapist attacking women around here a year or two ago...he was eventually caught, but nobody ever felt the same about this path...such a shame). But walking it with my lovely husband is a singular pleasure.

It's a great time to get a bit of a head start on some non-chocolate Easter gifts...these little terrarium bowls remain popular, don't they! But that was a pleasure, not a chore. Make sure you have some pleasurable tasks to look forward to.
Fresh fruit and home made yoghurt should be the order of the day for snacks.

And the rest of the time we eat just as simply.
We treat ourselves to exotic cheeses and gourmet potato salad from a local deli.

We roll all manner of vegetables and herbs like mint and coriander (cilantro) into rice paper rolls for another simple meal.
This delectable stuff found it's way onto our platters a few times. The brain never switches off, so of course I've now made my own.
It's just half a red cabbage, cut into ribbons, 2 apples chopped, simmered with a few glugs of vinegar, a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 cloves, a bay leaf, and some chilli seeds. Yummy.

It truly made us wonder why we eat such complicated meals. Especially when we love to eat this way. What a revelation. There is such a difference between eating a full scale meal, and all the preparation and cleaning that goes with that, and simply cutting up a few bits of this and that to enjoy.
Lesson learned. The refrigerator is now stocked with salmon, smoked, fresh, and hot smoked, leg ham slices, home made potato salad and coleslaw, as well as olives, pickles, chutneys, relishes, hard boiled eggs, gourmet mustards and jams, thick Greek yoghurt, fresh fruit and leafy vegetables, and home made red cabbage and apple kraut. Dinners are done and dusted in an instant. And brilliant in the heat of our Summer here.
Of course, there's also very little washing up, and this type of eating is so much easier on the digestive system. Kids love it, and there's less drama too in dealing with food preferences. You just leave off what they don't like, and load their plate with things they do.
Of course, we treat ourselves to a coffee here and there. This view greeted us at one memorable spot. We try to find the out of the way spots that engender peace and calm. Not for us the hustle and bustle of the trendy cafes. Not for these mini breaks anyway.
And after just a few days, sanity and calm is restored to our tired brains, hearts and souls.
Sure it's not the same as a 'real' getaway. But frankly sometimes a 'getaway' is more trouble than it's worth. Unfamiliar beds and pillows, traffic and noise, travel and the trials that come with it, can be vastly overrated.
Sometimes, a mini-break in our own home, is just what's needed.
Do you do home mini-breaks?

Friday, February 9, 2018

Authentically You...Try something new...

I know I'm behind the times. I only just finished binge watching Mad Men. Sorry.
For so long I wondered what the fuss was about.
Now I know.
The dresses. Sigh.
The shoes...swoon.
That hair...envy, envy.
I've always loved the era of the 50s and 60s for fashion. All those pretty dresses. And shoes. And scarves. And big hair. And petticoats. And jewellery.
People cared about how they looked.
And don't give me all that Stepford wife codswallop. I'm not talking about Female Emancipation or lack thereof.
Just that People. Looked. Nice.
Mostly these days, a look like this one below, is considered After Five exclusively. Nobody would dream of wearing this day in, day out.
For at least half of my life, I've bemoaned the passing of that era when women had the nouse to dress up every day.
Now my own family is grown, and we are less busy, I realise that I simply didn't have time to dress up every day for all those years. Not to stay at home. It's a commitment folks. Big time.
When you dress for a career, you're sort of on auto pilot. You wear the same things, with the same accessories, and you get into a nice little routine. Ditto, you don't have sticky fingers, and all manner of bodily fluids to deal with as I have for at least 31 of the past 38 years worth of child rearing, which included raising a totally physically dependant disabled son.
It makes a difference.
So now I have time for me. I've educated myself. I've read. I've experimented.
I've taken on board the wonderful advice from Marie-Anne Lecouer at The French Chic Academy. I've had a year of doing the whole French Chic pared down look. I liked it a lot. I especially like it in Winter when those darker colours, monochromatic schemes and minimalist accessories really work.
But here in the Sub-Tropics, the warmer weather brings new challenges. Especially if you're plus sized and a bit lumpy like I am.
Thankfully Marie-Anne Lecouer deals with how to make prints work for you, and how to disguise a big tummy. And make the most of your better attributes. Really useful stuff.
So having admired the inimitable Christina Hendricks as Joan on Mad Men, and armed with my newfound knowledge on adapting styles to suit my Apple shape, I've been discovering a new Warm Weather Me.
You can do it too.
Rule for Apple shapes...we generally have a generous bustline, slender arms and good legs. Our tummy region is the problem, but you know what? It's all about smoke and mirrors. It's about enhancing our...assets...which in turn, minimises our less desirable features.
Christina has great...assets. She uses them to her advantage.

My assets are not as impressive. But as per Marie-Anne's advice, I can still utilise a scooped or V neckline, and pretty detailing to draw the attention to my face and shoulders, rather than have everyone notice my blobby tum.
Colour and detailing matter too. Christinas dress above, is heavily bejewelled to cleverly draw the eye to her face.
For me, it's a bright colour in my dress, that makes the eyes pop, and a bright lipstick to assist.

Ahhh..the fit and flare dress. How many long years have I wanted to wear these. And how many times did I try them on, but without a savvy stylist to help me accessorise, simply inwardly wept, and decided I could not wear them and look good.
The secret?
Again, it's in the detail.
Look above at Adele. She displays a wide or detailed neckline. Slim fitting sleeves. A full skirt to balance her silhouette. Generous chest and generous hemline gives a faux hourglass shape.
Well, I'll be darned. I can do that.
Scooped neckline above.
Slim fitting cropped cardi that creates a column of colour centre front, magically slenderises.
Slim fitting sleeves make arms look trim and youthful.
Flouncy skirt that finishes just below the knee, and shoes with a low vamp (the top of the shoe) complete the long and lean trick to the onlooker.
Metallic dots on the shoes, echo the dots on the dress, pulling the look together.

Look here at Melissa McCarthy.
Now this would be an ensemble that I'd admire on her, but never would imagine in a million years on myself.
But again....look closer.
This works because:
The colour scheme is fairly monochromatic.
The print in the skirt draws the attention to slim ankles and pretty shoes.
The skirt does not sit ON the waist. It has a wide waistband, sitting ABOVE her natural waist, creating an almost Empire Line effect.
The skirt is not gathered. It's bias cut, giving volume at the hemline, without creating volume at the waist where you least want it.
The top has a V neck, tricking you into seeing long and lean.
It's skin coloured which sort of fools the eye into diminishing a large bustline.
The top also has a pussy bow neck trim, which is NOT tied into a bow, adding volume to the neckline, but rather left long and loose, giving a centre line of focus, and again, adding to a long and lean effect.
Her bird cage shoes, not usually recommended for Apple shapes as they cut our legs off at the ankle, are a nude colour, so she gets away with looking on trend and taller than she actually is.
Well, dang.
I reckon we can do that as well.
I'm working on that one now.
What do you think?
Are you ready to take the plunge and try something new?
Are you going to use these tips to find a gorgeous new self?
I'd love to hear from you.
Send photos to if you'd like to be featured.