Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On my mind: blueberries going the extra mile

One of my best friends up here is really good with food miles. Really good. She's probably reading this so, hello! ;)
But take a listen... she's got her own chooks which bring in plenty of eggs for her family. They eat vegetarian most meals in the week... much of which comes from their garden.
Their other fruit/veg comes from an organic farm that is about 100m away from their property (with some extras coming back from the Sydney Markets)... and their meat, well, when they aren't using their own chickens (roosters only - sorry gents!) for meat they are eating the organic grass fed meats from our local butcher! I think she gets her other staples from the local IGA.

Why am I telling you about someone else? Well, in comparison here's what we do...
Our eggs come from our neighbours (when we're lucky!) or we buy reputable organic free range eggs from the local grocer, our fruit/veg comes from our garden (what we can) or from the local fruit shop (sometimes from the supermarket - a big chain starting with Wool...) Our meat is generally organic grass fed from our local butcher and we try to eat 3 meat dishes a week and the rest vegetarian, sometimes throwing in some salmon or a fish curry as well! We get our other staples from that store starting with Wool... (usually).

So there are two different examples of families and their food... probably both fairly friendly on the food miles scale... but perhaps only at face value.
How often do I read the labels? Where is my food actually coming from?
Nowadays I actually read do each and every one on most of my shopping trips. Boring. Yep! But I am interested to know where my food is coming from and I try my little heart out to support Australian owned and made, by not buying imported brands AND not buying home branded items where I can.

Here's where the blueberries come in! I usually buy small packs of frozen raspberries and blueberries. We use the suckers ALL the time! Smoothies, to top yogurt, to make our own ice creams, as snacks, on porridge... they're high up there on our list and the cost of buying fresh ones is huge. Would you believe we had a berry farm only 200m away until a few years ago (before our time)... I'd love it to still be there!

After hubby found a jumbo bag of berries at a reasonably discounted price in comparison to the small ones we've been buying those... but I noticed they looked and tasted different, not as nice.
We checked out the back of the pack and sure enough these babies are from Chile. After a little research it would seem most of our frozen berries and even some of our 'fresh' ones are from South America.

I've found them hard to eat ever since. I don't have a lot more to say about the berries because I want to research this some more... 

However, I will say that it's strawberry season here... fresh strawberries are going cheap... these came from our local fruit market and have been a welcome alternative on my porridge to my frozen friends... they're from Queensland. 

I'd love to know your thoughts on this!? Does it worry you where your food is coming from? 
Or not?

(PS. Aside from food miles one of my biggest concerns with this is growing conditions and soil quality. In my recent Permaculture course it really stuck in my mind that the food you eat is only as good as the soil it's grown in (read a bit from William Albrecht to find out more...) and I worry about the soils that I'm not tending to with my compost and my rain water and my love and attention! What is that soil getting?)

Also, check out that cute girl at the top... she makes her own smoothies now... she's a keeper! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Recipe: Homemade Muesli Bars

I go through food fads... and I get really stuck with the same thing over and over, particularly with breakfast. In the Summer months I tend to lean towards muesli and yogurt with sliced banana and through Winter it's been Porridge with berries and vanilla bean yogurt! Yum!

A glance in my pantry a few weeks back left me wondering what I should do with the giant tub of muesli I knew I wouldn't go near for awhile since I'm in a porridge rut!! :)

Soooo I figured I'd make some yummy muesli bars... I tried googling recipes but they all were from scratch, nothing using leftover muesli. So after looking through lots of recipes, here's what I came up with - let me tell you - they were quite amazing!

What you'll need::

3 cups muesli (I used a fruit blend)
1/4 cup linseeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey

What to do::

Preheat oven to 160'C (mine's fan forced) so maybe 180'C if conventional.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl (yep - one bowl only!)
Line a slice pan with baking paper and spoon your mix in and spread evenly.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. 
Bring it out... eat some hot out of the oven... the slice and store in an airtight container! Yum!!

Do you get in breakfast ruts?

On my mind: I hate new things

Are you surrounded by like minded people? Do your friends share your ideals and passions?
Our home church family all have very similar ideals not only with our faith (obviously) but also when it comes to everyday living. 

Each of them inspire and instruct us on sustainable community living. We share produce when we can, make meals for one another when there's a need or often just because. And we all share a love for op shopping and vintage treasures. Many of my other family and friends share this passion for second hand finds too!

However, I think our love for op shopping spans further than just finding cool vintage bargains. My sister in law has often inspired me with her frugal ways and running her family on a small budget and my other sister in law hasn't bought anything new (maybe underwear) for nearly 3 years now (I think). 

Both of them motivated I believe not only by their own budgets but also with a heart for reducing waste, not supporting mass production of clothing/shoes/homewares overseas and for supporting local Australian business instead of multinational corporations. 

We live in a throw away society. Instead of learning to mend and sew we merely throw away that which is broken and buy another. Landfills are exploding, consumerism is growing exponentially and our children are being sucked along into the vortex. 

My SIL Hannah from Paint On The Ceiling (I'll link you to her when my laptop finds it in its heart to take the charger and fire up its battery!) has shared about The Story Of Stuff before and it is definitely worth watching. (Youtube it)

So what do those pretty shoes have to do with things?
I'd like to know how a pair of ladies shoes get here for $7? A child's T-shirt for $4. Ladies clothes for $10? 

And then I'd like to know why those prices for similar looking/feeling/manufactured products can double or triple because it is now tagged with a 'brand' name. 

I'm not sure which upsets me more. Seeing shoes like this sold for $7 or for $40!

So why did I buy them? Good question! 
I've looked and looked as I've scoured op shops lately and not found any flat shoes in my size. 
These were a temptation I didn't (not couldn't) resist!

I guess my stand is one of do my best and try to reduce my own spending on unnecessary or throw away type items. 
I think just being aware of how far things have come is something that often restricts my spending. Including grocery items. 

Anyway - I'm going to wear those shoes without any guilt but with a fascination over our society's consumption of 'stuff' and a wonderment at what people expect that 'stuff' will do for them. 

Funnily enough my hubby posted this quote on his Facebook profile this morning. I'm glad we're like minded too! ;) xxx

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Recipe: Best Brownie Recipe Ever

Don't you love country towns that display signs that claim to be the 'world's greatest' pies or cakes or potatoes!
Well I hate to say it but these are the world's best brownies! Well, in my world anyway!
Best Ever Brownies : Just For Daisy

I don't often make brownies because I try not to keep chocolate in the house and all the brownie recipes I find call for chocolate or even more specifically dark chocolate!

Yesterday the day was beginning to feel particularly long! You know the ones where you'd give anything to hide in the cupboard with a block of chocolate to gnaw on! No chocolate so I had to improvise. 

Here's what I came up with! And I made this recipe again today - just for quality assurance! (The great thing about making your own recipes up is that I know it off by heart already - dangerous right?!)

You'll need:

2 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
125g butter, melted
4 Tbs cocoa powder (I use Cadbury!)
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
Asstd choc chips 1/4 cup (optional. Today I added white and dark, yesterday none. I'd have gladly eaten both batches!)

That's it!

What to do:

1. Melt your butter. 
2. Mix eggs and sugar until well combined. Add butter and vanilla and stir well. 
3. Add cocoa powder. Mix. Mix. Mix. 
4. Add flour and baking powder. Mix. 
5. Add choc chips if you're using them. You could add chopped nuts here too - go crazy! Mix. 
6. Bake in a lined slice tray for 18 minutes in a preheated 180'C oven (mines fan forced - maybe a tad longer if conventional) err on the side of undercooked here though. :)
7. Eat some hot out of pan. Enjoy!!

Anyway, as I said - world's best! And very little washing up! I had them mixed up, in the oven and benches tidy within 5-10 minutes! Win! Tell your friends! ;)

Best Ever Brownies : Just For Daisy

Thursday, August 15, 2013

On my heart: Growing in the sun

It's amusing that I popped this photo in a draft post on my phone amidst the crazy 20'C Winter splendour days we were getting a week or so ago! Sun! Heat!

It's now topping 10'C when we're lucky and the wind chill and ominous snow cloud in the sky make it feel like about 2'C. 

But we're still making the most of playing outside. Enjoying our garden and its bounty, our inherited cubby house and sand pit and the newly positioned outdoor kitchen. So much fun to be had outside and it seems to refresh us all no matter what the mood of the day. 

And I love seeing Miss Daisy marvel as we wander round the block and discover new bulbs in full bloom or fruit trees beginning to blossom!

So we're looking forward to Spring and some warmth once again. But we're thankful for the sun and some good Winter coats. 

Have you played outside today?

On my mind: Reduce your household waste

I've decided since I'm going to take the blog back to it's roots that I'll do some posts from my heart and from my mind! Aptly titled, On my Heart or On my Mind! Here's the first - something we've been prioritising here this year and particularly in the last few months! Composting.

The first year we were married we lived in a second story unit. It was part of a complex of just over 20 units and there were no recycling bins. I phoned council and strata management several times about the issue and was met with the same (silly) response - there is no room for a truck to enter the premises to collect it and it's not safe for the rubbish truck to stop for bins on the street. WHAT! I wasn't happy but I was just shy of 21 and didn't push it any further. I did however take our recycling to my parents house each week and place it in their recycling bin ready for collection.

Our unit did however have a giant skip bin that was filled to the brim each fortnight awaiting the truck (yes a truck came in and picked it up!!) to collect it and send all that precious recyclables off to landfill! 20 households people! 20!

Since then we've owned two homes both of which have access to their respective council's collection services for recycling. Our previous council also collected green waste on a fortnightly basis which was great for lawn clippings, tree branches etc. Here our green waste goes to our own compost heap or larger items head to our neighbours property to break down in their giant pile!

So here's what's on my mind. Compost. How'd you like to reduce your weekly household waste by up to 40% - yep, it's estimated Aussie's bins contain 40% food waste each week!

When we started composting our food scraps with big intentions a few months back rather than in our on again off again fashion, our household waste reduced so significantly that a few weeks in a row our bin only contained one bag of rubbish when it was collection day! (We use cloth nappies if you're wondering...!)

Inside, we now have a compost tub (it's a big Tupperware jug) on the bench near the sink. It's easy to grab and put next to the chopping board as I prepare meals and snacks and throw all of our fruit and veggie scraps in! No lid means that it can sit there a few days in a row and it doesn't smell! (I might use a lid once the pesky fruit flies are about?!)

Outside we have an old wheelie bin with the base cut off. It rests on the ground and we simply throw our compost in the top. Every week or so I give it a big stir with the pitch fork to oxygenate it and if we want to incorporate some compost into our garden beds we simply grab it from underneath. My excitement peaked last week when I discovered we have myriads of worms living in the heap! Woot!

I really want to build up a wooden compost heap, perhaps a three bin system like my dad built at his place... all in good time. At this stage I'm just pleased that our food waste is not going to landfill.

Actaully best of all lately we've been giving ALL of our food scraps to our neighbours chooks (around 50 of them!) and they love it! As do Miss Daisy and Li'l Peppa! (More arguments to Daddy that we need chooks too!) So not just fruit and veggie scraps but also leftover porridge from breakfast, crusts and sandwich scraps, leftover rice that isn't eaten and basically anything and everything else! They love it!

Here's my 10 composting tips (for beginners!)

1. Start a compost heap. Even if you aren't going to use it on your garden or anywhere else. Designate a compost heap and use it. You'll see your household waste reduce significantly AND you're helping to keep so much unnecessary waste out of landfill!

2. Don't put food in the bin! Once you've started make yourself feel guilty if food goes in the bin! It very rarely happens here now. Everything goes to the compost heap or the chooks!

3. Give it some greens to increase nitrogen. We throw in all our weeds and any clippings that will fit! :) (This is why I need a bigger heap!) 

4. Tea bags are in! If you're a tea drinker then here's another thing that will no longer make it's way into your household bin. Tea bags are great for compost heaps, as are coffee grounds!

5. Hair me out on this one. Have you got a pet or do you find you molt when you comb your hair (I do!) Hair can go in your compost heap and is a wonderful treat for your worm farm if you have one! My dad taught us this when we lived at home... our worms weren't in short supply of hair with four long haired girls in the house!)

6. On the topic of hair... if you have a vacuum with a cyclonic catcher then you can empty your vacuum dust into your compost too! (Mine's usually full of hair too!)

7. Keep meats and dairy out of your compost heap, we reserve these kind of scraps for the chooks.

8. Compost heaps need air so keep turning it every week or so to incorporate air.

9. Make it easy. Keep a container in your kitchen to put scraps straight in - this makes it easy to take outside every couple of days

10. Start today! It's not really a tip - but it's good advice I promise! We've dappled in composting on and off over the years. But my best advice is set yourself up an easy system to ensure success! Keep it simple and you will continue in this great habit!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Disney Tangled Party - Happy 3rd Birthday Miss Daisy

Another year, another flurry of birthdays in our little family. Not only are the four of us in June/July but we have around 6 other family members celebrating birthdays in these months too!! Makes for a busy few months!

Miss Daisy started requesting a Tangled party quite early in the year... I'm not even sure where she got the idea that a party could have a theme, but she did. And so with great anticipation we planned it in our heads, on paper and with our crafting! If you're planning a Tangled Party follow along with my Tangled party board on pinterest!

Here's a taste of Miss Daisy's Tangled Party - I think she made a pretty cute Rapunzel, don't you?
She certainly had the!!!
Tangled Party : Just For Daisy
Here's Miss Daisy with her sweet cousins (3 of the 7 - they were all there!) before the party! Look at that hair!!
Miss Daisy and I painted the Rapunzel painting in the background a few days before the party. This space was a window which we boarded up and are yet to paint, so this image still graces our lounge room with it's presence!
Tangled Party : Just For Daisy

The invites were Pinterest inspired with a little tweek here and there of our own. We went for a tower card with a flowing braid out the window... Miss Daisy decided she'd like them to be purple so we painted them with watercolour paints. We then used some leftover wool to wrap around the envelopes. (We made all the invites... sadly not all got posted and some guests only received a text image of the invite - oops! Did I mention June/July is busy!?)

Tangled Party : Just For Daisy

Miss Daisy spotted a Rapunzel dress one night at Kmart.... I really wanted to make her a costume but thankfully I gave in and bought the overpriced, poorly made dress... because there's no way I would've made anything in time! And it looked great on the day!
However, I couldn't resist making her a wig! This gorgeous wig took 2 balls of wool ($4), some matching embroidery thread, a needle (expect sore fingers!) and I used an old cotton beanie (baby size) for the base of the wig. I used the great advice from this post to make the wig.  
Tangled Party : Just For Daisy
Did you see the party bags at the top? Go back up - they're fabulous!! I planned and cut these but again my timing was WAY off... so my darling sister in law sewed them up the night before the party! Aren't they great! I really liked these satchels/bags and tried for a similar feel! We filled them with some homemade cookies, balloon, party blower, freddo and a small blank canvas for the children to paint at home!

Did I mention my sister in law was around the night before the party? Well thankfully she was because she also helped me with the cake (and countless other things!)

Having been making treats, iced cookies and cakes for the day... little did I know I was swiftly running low on baking supplies! Icing sugar became a precious commodity! I'd planned to use fondant for the braid and for grass. Anyway, the idea of using fondant icing was quickly overruled as it was too heavy for our ice cream cone tower, so I braided another lot of wool and used that for Rapunzel's hair. I'd bought some pre-made edible flowers and my SIL had the great idea to dye some coconut for the grass instead of icing... it worked GREAT! You can see her Rainbow Cake and her Peppa Pig cake from her last two birthdays... I'm not sure how many years I'll keep taking requests!

Tangled Party : Just For DaisyTangled Party : Just For Daisy

For games: I made some cool fry pans out of black plastic bowls with metallic plastic knives glue gunned to them. These were used for a throw Pascal in the pan game, using some squishy lizard toys from the $2 shop... followed by the children running around the yard trying to pop the bubbles from our bubble blowing machine with their fry pans! Fun!

Here's a few shots of the iced cookies I made for the party favours and the ones that got snatched up real quick off the party table! (And here's some really fabulous ones from Sweet Sugar Belle, mine are a close second!)
Tangled Party : Just For Daisy

I used a triangle cutter for the sun bunting cookies, a square cutter for pascal and iced in a diamond shape, and the paint palletes were a love heart cutter that I trimmed the hard point to round it off and poked a hole through the dough before cooking to make it look like a palette! 
One of these days I'll write a post about my sugar cookies - I've loved doing them for both girls parties lately and for my sister's baby shower last year. All of them iced with only a zip lock bag! Yep, clever huh!?

Tangled Party : Just For Daisy

Tangled Party : Just For Daisy

All up we had a really lovely day! 
So great to have our friends and family join us to make this the best... day... ever for Miss Daisy!

Tangled Party : Just For Daisy

And to add to the amazing month of June/July my gorgeous online friend Jackie has a special girl with a birthday too! Check out their fabulous princess party - for a very sweet Snow White! This party is the goods - games, decorations, cake, you name it they've got it! Click the picture below to head over to My Little Bookcase for a peak into Snow White's Enchanted Forest Party.

My Little Bookcase: Snow White Party

Sickness and Sunshine

Just when we thought that the colds, flus and just generally the colour green had left our home... we seem to be back to square one. We missed out on a party this weekend for a special one year old girl... sharing the afore mentioned colour at a party never goes down well so we had to make our apologies!

The weather was absolutely glorious though. We had sun, blue sky and temperatures above 20'C! Amazing since it's been closer to half that of late! 

My girls are both so drawn to the outdoors. From her earliest days, Li'l Peppa was easily settled with a trip outside into our yard. Now that she's walking she is a force to be reckoned with indoors and out! She runs, climbs and wriggles her way to where she wants to go, and fast!


We had some new seedlings that were ready to plant in our veggie patch. Mostly herbs but Miss Daisy had also chosen some beets. We're hoping to nurture them through any frosts but thankfully all but the basil and chives are born and bred here so should be frost hardy! We'll wait and see.

Milkshakes seem to be the flavour of the month. Miss Daisy even found a straw! Usually the shakes are made from stones and pebbles from our driveway so this was a special flavour!


After a weekend of coughing, sneezing and wiping noses and eyes, I'm thankful for a little time as a family spent in the sunshine. We've loved being able to eat from our garden almost every night. And have been learning so much about using the whole plant, particularly with our brocolli and cabbage as we await the 'real deal' we're enjoying their bountiful leaves in stir frys, salads and as many other ways we can imagine! Amazing!