Monday, June 27, 2011

Homemade Cleaners - All Purpose Spray

Image source
I ran out of my homemade spray cleaner tonight so quickly whipped up a bottle before I retired to the computer with a green juice (apple, kiwifruit, spinach and ginger - yum yum!) to catch up on the day's blogs. I have been making most of my own cleaners for at least a year now and I still can't believe how cheap and easy it is. Please, DON'T listen to the ads - we DON'T need to kill every single germ in our entire house with toxic chemicals. Some germs are good, and help us build up natural immunity. Since I have started using homemade, natural cleaners my chronic allergies, asthma and eczema have improved incredibly. So much so, that I almost never have an issue with them any more. While this is probably in part to my dietary choices, I am certain changing my cleaners to all natural alternatives have helped. Trust me, once you smell the delicious scent of a natural cleaner on your bench, you will never want to go back to those awful chemical health hazards in-a-bottle.

Homemade All Purpose Spray (for 500mls)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 Tblsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla essence (or 5 or so drops of an essential oil of your choice)
Warm water to fill the bottle

Pour baking soda and vanilla or essential oil into a spray bottle using a funnel. Add around 1 cup of water, shake to combine with the baking soda and then slowly pour in the white vinegar. It will fizz (think Science Fair volcano experiment), so it is best to do this in the sink. Once it has settled down add the rest of the water, put the top on and you're done! Easy peasy. I use this spray on all my benches, oven top, cupboards, doors, sink, toilet seat and to clean up any puppy puddles.

Vinegar is a natural antibacterial (sometimes I just use it neat, if I don't have any spray made up), and baking soda is fantastic for cleaning almost anything. If you are really worried about germs, try adding tea tree oil to the mix, for extra antibacterial protection.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

From My Kitchen - Sunday 26th June

As you can see from my last post, things are a bit rough around here and I'm really very tired. But, I'm trying my best to keep up a routine, and meal planning really helps with that. So, here's this week's menu:

Sunday - pasta with to-die-for tomato sauce
Monday - broccoli, cauliflower and blue cheese soup with spelt sourdough and cultured butter (yum!!)
Tuesday -Thai green curry with free-range chicken thighs and greens on brown rice
Wednesday - free-range chicken livers with onions, garlic, mushrooms and red wine sauce on spelt sourdough toast with a green salad
Thursday - Moroccan pumpkin and chickpea casserole with homemade garlic naan

- spelt sourdough

To Do
- soak brown rice
- soak chickpeas
- make coconut kefir (for breakfast smoothies)
- make weekly kombucha

A Whinge and a Prize Winner

Well hello there. I've been somewhat MIA for the last few weeks, and I'm sorry. However, for those of you who live in Christchurch, or are close with someone who does, I'm sure you can understand why. It's been a bumpy few weeks here (more so than the usual) and for me, I'm just about reaching my limit. The chronic stress (it's been over 10 months since our first big quake) of almost constant earthquakes, is seriously getting to me, and I'm almost, almost not coping. Last Monday June 13th, we had another big one. A 6.3 magnitude, which was the same magnitude as the devastating February earthquake. I was in the same place as I was in February, doing a very similar thing. For those of you who follow my life, I work 90 kms and over an hour away from my home, my friends, my family, my life. I very much still feel the larger earthquakes where I work. They are not nearly as aggressive and sharp, but still very obvious. After previous experience, I now know that when I feel an earthquake like that, something very bad may be happening in my home town. And so I panic. I can't get hold of the people I love as all the phone lines crash. I don't know what has happened and where it has happened and it sends me into hysteria. Not the most practical thing to happen, but at this point, after 10 months of this, my body takes over and this is what it does. June 13th's earthquake wasn't nearly as devastating as February's - most likely because our central city is pretty much a ghost town and that is where the buildings fell last time, but it was still bad. People's houses continued to be destroyed, even more than they already were, rocks slide down hills, uninhabited buildings collapse and people are scared, terrified even, for we know what happened once, and who's to say it won't happen again. Christchurch is exhausted, on edge and over it, more than words can ever describe.

And then this week, another big aftershock hits, 10.35pm on Tuesday night. We got out of bed for that one (and not much gets me out of bed); it was long and powerful. However, once that was over, the series of aftershocks a larger earthquake sets off begin. This is something people from Christchurch now now intimately. Yes, big earthquakes are scary and annoying, but do you know that they are followed by many, many aftershocks? Aftershocks often rumble, like a jet is taking off directly over your house. I liken it to a Giant, walking with his massive feet, right outside my house. So, they start with a rumble, maybe 5-10 seconds long, and then they hit, in varying strengths, but very similar to the a fore mentioned Giant kicking your house. This past Tuesday night, after the 10.35pm aftershock, the littler rumbles and punches continued well into the night. In the paper the next day, the headline read something like 'Here's Why You Had Such a Bad Nights Sleep', and showed the aftershock pattern, which continued until around 4am. And then I get up at 6am and drive for over an hour, away from my home and my life. Safe to say, I've been pretty tired this week.

Trust me, I know, despite all this complaining, that I am lucky. I still come home to a house that is dry, watertight and still standing. I have water and electricity (unless a large aftershock temporarily knocks them out) and I have a job to go to, despite how far away it is. But that doesn't mean I am not exhausted, living in a semi-constant state of heightened arousal due to very regular aftershocks, missing life pre-February 22nd, sad, angry and upset that my reality is in a constant state of stress, change and uncertainty. I feel like I am underperforming in all areas of my life at the moment, and for a perfectionist, this is very hard to accept.

So please, let me have my whinge, because while I know I am lucky, my reality is still hard. And understand that my absences have a reason; because sometimes, it is all just a bit much. 

Now, enough of that and onto the winner of my wee competition, to celebrate my 100th post. After flipping a coin for the TWO entries I received, 'heads' and Fran from Frangipani was the lucky winner. Fran lives in Christchurch too, so be sure to pay her a visit and say hi. Fran, please excuse the delay, and I will have something lovely in the post for you by the end of the week :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

From My Kitchen - Sunday 12th June

Finally, a week that will have some sense of normality to it! Paddy's play finally closes on Tuesday night after a successful, sell-out season and I get him back at night! Well, at least until the next one starts... Dinners this week are very much seasonally inspired, after a fresh batch of mushrooms from my mum (we buy a kilo a fortnight from a grower at her work) and a huge delivery of avocados from Paddy's mum, who was down to visit for the weekend. If you have never tried avocado pasta before I highly recommend it! I have a few different versions of my own, but the linked recipe is a great start too. There will definitely be avocado in the rice paper rolls as well; I can't get enough of the stuff! The mushroom barley risotto is a take on this recipe. I made it tonight as I cooked Sunday's dinner, since Monday's is my busy gym night. It smells amazing and I can't wait for dinner tomorrow night to have some! I will post the recipe in the next few days, as it's another cheap and delicious staple.

Here's the plan for this week:

Sunday - free-range pork sausages with potato-celeriac mash and roasted yams, broccoli and brussels sprouts
Monday - mushroom barley risotto with raw spinach salad
Tuesday - creamy avocado pasta with greens
Wednesday - organic chicken curry on brown rice
Thursday - Vietnamese rice paper spring rolls with satay dipping sauce

- some flavour of raw truffles for snacks
- spelt sourdough

To Do
- soak brown rice
- soak cashews for truffles
- weekly kombucha

Thrifting Finds

I have had a lovely weekend, which has involved a visit to a new GIANT op shop and a Sunday treasures market. What more could a girl want than TWO thrifting trips in one weekend! As most people, I always have variable success with my thrifting adventures, and this weekend was a good one!

Here are my finds:

Ten vintage champagne flutes.

An old bevelled frame, for which I have grand plans for.

Two vintage satchels, for Paddy's mountains of marking.

A basket, for which I also have plans for.

I love buying good secondhand; it is the most sustainable and eco-logical option. Why encourage the production of more 'things', when there is an everlasting array of wonderful treasures like these just waiting for new homes! I love looking around my house and seeing that almost everything was bought secondhand, with a purpose and after much waiting and searching. Delayed gratification is rad, and it sure keeps the crap down in our house. So next time you think you simply must have that new something-or-rather, try searching your local op shops and markets for the preloved version. It will cost a hell of a lot less, fill you with a delightful sense of accomplishment and is much better for our beautiful earth.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Homemade Apple Cider

I made my first experimental batch of apple cider last Autumn, and it was so delicious I just knew I would be at least doubling the recipe this year. Last year I managed to score free apples (braeburn I think) from a tree on my parent's property, but this year, I bought some organic cider apples from a lady who sells lovely organic apples at my local Farmer's Market. For a mere $3, I ended up with 5kg! I was quite the happy camper.

The recipe I use is from the New Zealand Gardener magazine's Homegrown 2 publication. Frustratingly, the recipe warns of the cider's potency, but after two years, I still think mine is about as alcoholic as a glass of lemonade! I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong, as I follow the recipe exactly. Luckily, this brew is super delicious, almost ginger beer-y, so the lack of alcohol just means I can drink more of it! Apples are just finishing their season at the moment, so forage for some on one of the many local free trees or find someone with an over-producing tree and offer to take some off their hands. Once you say you will return the favour with homemade cider, I'm sure they will be happy to oblige!

I tripled the recipe, and made about 17 litres, but below is the standard quantities, which you can modify as you like.

Homemade Apple Cider (from Homegrown 2 - Live off Your Land for Less)

1.5 kgs apples
5.7 litres water, boiled then cooled
1 kg white sugar
3 lemons, juice and zest

Trim any nasties off the apples, roughly dice and place in the freezer in a plastic bag with the handles tied for 3 days. After 3 days, remove from freezer and defrost in the sink in their bag. In batches, blitz the apples in a food processor until pulped (you may need to add a bit of water to get things moving). Put the pulp in a 10 litre, very clean plastic bucket and add the boiled and cooled water. Cover with a tea towel and leave for 7 days, stirring twice daily.

After 7 days, strain the liquid through a tea towel or muslin cloth and discard the pulp. To the strained juice, add sugar, zest and juice and stir well. After a few days the mixture will start to fizz as the yeast (supposedly!) converts to alcohol. Leave for a few more days for the fizzing to die off and then decant, through a sieve, into plastic screw-top bottles. Squeeze the bottle in ever-so-slightly when screwing the lids on and leave some space at the top for the expansion room, as this mixture can get very fizzy!

Store in the garage for a few weeks and it's ready!

Chop apples. Freeze for 3 days.

Defrost apples, add to boiled, cooled water. Stir twice daily.

Strain juice from pulp.

Add lemon juice and zest.

After a few days, strain and bottle.

Squeeze your bottles to allow them to expand.
No explosions here!

17 litres, ready to go!

After a week or so, enjoy!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Raw Coconut and Chocolate Truffles

I've been reading raw food blogs for quite some time now, and occasionally dabble in the cooking side of it. Raw food is something that really interests me and I do try to incorporate at least some of the mentalities into my daily eating. I have a friend who is really keen on raw at the moment and has inspired me to get a bit adventurous with my cooking (or 'un-cooking' as the case may be!). Here is a recipe for raw truffles I made up a few weeks ago, and have been enjoying for snacks on the road ever since. Kept in the freezer, they are a delicious treat that tastes quite decadent, but are actually really healthy, being mostly nuts and wholegrains! Next time I would definitely add some fruit, probably a few dates, to change the texture a bit. Don't get too caught up in the 'raw' label; I don't. I eat what tastes yummy and makes me feel good - and these do!

Soaking nuts makes them much more easily digestible, and gives them a creamy texture when blended. The ones I used were soaked overnight, but I think only a few hours is fine for a nut as soft as the cashew. Make sure you drain off the water first, or your truffle mixture will be sloppy! I also made a batch of cashew nut milk with some of the leftover soaked nuts, and it was yum! As my raw milk supply will come to an end for the winter very soon, I think I will try and use more nut milks as a replacement, until the spring comes and my much loved milk returns.

Raw Coconut and Chocolate Truffles

1 cup raw soaked cashew nuts
3/4 cup wholegrain rolled oats
1 Tbsp flaxseed
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp carob powder
1 tsp vanilla essence

1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1/4 cup soaked and dried buckwheat (optional) 

Process ingredients in a blender until smooth. Scrape down sides regularly to keep blades going. Roll tablespoons of mixture into a ball and roll in coconut and buckwheat mixture. Freeze four hours.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wardrobe Wednesday

My outfit is not quite as exciting today - I knew I had lots of running around to do so I opted for some (new!) flat boots instead of my regular heels. Yes, I think I have an addiction to boots! These latest ones are also destiny, as I originally bought a different pair but the zip broke on them after the first wear. So, I went to return them and decided I would have one more try of these lovelys, and decided that yes, I would branch out a bit from the safe and ordinary, especially given my recent oath. And so, it is love in a pair of boots once more!

Please excuse the TERRIBLE light, I am only home when it is dark...

T-shirt - Pagani
Cardi - Tempt (I wear it all the time)
Scarf - a present from a friend from Egypt
Skirt - Max Clearance
Tights - Glassons (they are actually a cute argyle pattern but it's impossible to see with the light)
Boots - Number One Shoe Warehouse
Necklace - my cameo

More outift inspiration here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

First Knitting Success!

So, I started my first knitting project about three years ago. I decided I wanted a hot water bottle cover, after a meeting a particularly lovely merino version when staying up north in the winter months. Once I returned home, knitting ensued, and some progress was made. As I am SLOW at knitting and I couldn't bring myself to knit in the summer, this project consequently took three winters. BUT, I finally finished it this Sunday just been, after setting myself three crafting goals for this year and this being one of them. I am SO proud of myself, and can't wait to cosy up in bed with it tonight.

Luckily, I still love the colours after all this time! I think there is suppose to be a button on the front, but the buttonhole I thought I made (at least a year ago) seems to have disappeared. Maybe it's up and taken off to a garment that actually got finished... Anyway, it still works a treat and fits perfectly. This really is a proud moment in this beginner crafter's world :)

Now, since I don't have the best track record for projects, I should probably make my other two craft goals for the year public, so at least I am a little bit accountable!

So, by the end of the year I would like to:

1. Finish hot water bottle cover
2. Learn to crochet (I dream of a peggy square blanket I made myself)
3. Make a patchwork picnic rug out of thrifted vintage sheets

Monday, June 6, 2011

One Hundred!

Well, well, well, it looks like I have made it to 100 posts! Never did I think when I started this blog that I would keep going for this long and and end up with this much to say! Despite my posting being somewhat sporadic at times, I do truly love the community of people I have 'met' in the blog world. There are some amazing, inspirational ladies out there and I can only hope that one day I will be as amazing and inspirational as they are. I feel I have learnt so much and am still learning every day from these wonderful, talented people, and I can say with absolute certainty, that they all make me try to be a better person.

This blog is not only a public record of my trials and errors with food, crafts and life, but a diary of sorts, documenting a change in myself over the past year. Looking back, I have come a long way from my first post, and I am still loving the challenging of coming up with exciting and interesting things to write about.

To celebrate my 100th post, I would like to host a little giveaway! I don't know what it will be yet, as I didn't realise I had hit 100 posts until tonight! But, I promise it will be at least a little bit fabulous...
Simply leave a comment below telling me what you would like to see or see more of on the blog in the future, and you will be in the draw. I will draw a winning entry next Monday, 13th June.

Good luck!

From My Kitchen - Sunday 6th June

A day late again, but since it's a holiday, I'll forgive myself. It has been a busy and relaxing weekend in my world. Paddy's play finally opened on Saturday night, and I have had time to catch up with three different groups of friends this long weekend, as well as finishing a long awaited knitting project! My favourite thing about long weekends is the short week that coincides, and this week coming is no exception. This is the last frantic week for a while, as Paddy's play will close next week and life will return to some sense of normality! Dinners this week are all being cooked the night before, as Paddy needs to eat and leave the house by 5.30pm each night, which is before I even get home! Luckily, my lovely neighbour Sharon has offered to feed us for a couple of nights, so I don't have too much to worry about. But for the remaining days, here's the plan:

Sunday - out for Vietnamese with friends
Monday - mushroom cabonara (from Sharon) with homemade spelt sourdough
Tuesday - slow-cooked free-range pork chops in a soy, ginger and chilli sauce on brown rice with steamed greens
Wednesday - dinner at the neighbours (silverbeet and mince 'Pleasent Peasant' dish)
Thursday - roasted vege and chickpea salad with extra greens

- a thank-you cake for the neighbours!

To Do
- soak rice
- prep veges the night before each meal
- soak chickpeas
- weekly kombucha

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wardrobe Wednesday and Vintage Clothing Makeover: The Mu-Mu Edition

I am double-dipping this week for Wardrobe Wednesday as I wanted to share one of my fabulous vintage dress make-overs. Sharon (my dear friend and neighbour) saw potential in this beauty, and while I was initially doubtful, I am THRILLED at how it turned out. As delightfully comfortable as this dress was pre-remodel, it wasn't doing a lot for my figure... A hem and a belt was all that was needed to update it into a pretty funky dress! I didn't dare hem it myself as that slippery slidey material and the pressure of getting it straight may have just about pushed me over the edge. So, I trusted a dressmaker to do the dirty work. That way, I can get straight down to the business of wearing this fabulous dress! I like to call this look 'mu-mu chic'. What do you think?

I know, I'm extremely photogenic.
Max isn't sure what's happening...

Dress: Vintage remodel
Cardi: Tempt
Belt: Glassons
Boots: Trade Me (these ones!)
Tights: Farmers
Necklace: My precious cameo, bought when I was 15...

See here for more lovely ladies.