Friday, May 31, 2013

another week

Another week gone, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it was certainly another busy one. But that seems to be the way of things around here lately. Between school "fun" days to bake for, an out of town cross country carnival, coffee catch ups and the usual grocery shopping, it has continued to be extra busy all week. As much as I am the sort that doesn't like rushing around too much, at least it is a good type of busy, which at the end of the day is the main thing. As I contemplate on the weekend ahead (yes, another busy one!), I'm hoping that you yourselves will have a pleasant weekend also.

And here's hoping that next week will be just a little bit quieter.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


I think one of the biggest changes we've made here, as regards to how we eat, was the introduction of fermented food and drink into our diet.  I was always put off by the whole lacto-fermented and cultured thing. It always seemed so time consuming and just a little bit scary.

But really, it's not. A batch of sauerkraut is really as simple as rubbing cabbage and salt together for ten minutes and packing it into a jar. (I used these instructions) Just a few spoonfuls a day can greatly improve digestive health, and we try to have some daily in our attempt to adopt a more traditional diet. I have been making a batch about every three weeks or so from locally grown cabbage. We eat it in varying degrees of sourness, though I must say that I am the only sour flavour fan in the house. So if you don't like the taste it is easy to stir into a vegie mash or something similar to subdue the flavour. It is actually quite nice with a bacon and egg weekend breakfast.

Sauerkraut made from cabbage and kale

Those of us that have spent most of our lives on the standard white flour and sugar fare, often topped off with margarine or vegetable oil, as most processed food is, or the occasional dose of antibiotics, will have some digestive issues. Often it is hidden, but may manifest itself in seemingly unrelated ways and is often subtle. I believe this to be true of myself, my family and I suspect in most people I know. Fermented foods are one of the best ways to re-introduce healthy bacteria and improve our gut flora.

Yoghurt, I had already been making for some time using the slow cooker method.  But I allow it to ferment for a full 24 hours now so as to ensure that most of the lactose has been consumed by the culture, making it easier to digest. It seems to make it a lot thicker too.

Speaking of dairy, we've also begun to drink fermented kefir daily (I bought my kefir grains from here). I make a new batch every morning in a few large glass jars. I use organic unhomogenised milk or A2 milk which I simply pour over the strained grains from the previous batch. Raw milk is impossible to find here and I have heard that kefir is the next best thing. It is like putting the life back into the milk that pasteurisation takes out. If you like the sour taste of yoghurt, as I do, then you will have no problem with this. I really enjoy it as a snack. For others (like Daniel) it can be an acquired taste. I also know someone that adds a touch of honey. Unfortunately I've had no luck getting the kids to drink it.

But the kids do enjoy drinking the kombucha tea I've been making. I had no luck with most of the first few batches of kombucha (it kept going mouldy), and almost gave up. So I took the plunge and bought a big kombucha jar designed for the continuous method of kombucha making. I also put calico over the tea now instead of cheesecloth. I have had no problems whatsoever with this new system and we are actually making more kombucha than we can use at this stage. I originally bought my kombucha "mushroom" from here and I also added a small bottle of commercial kombucha (from the local health food store) to the water, black tea and sugar mixture. Don't be scared of the sugar content as the sugar will be consumed by the fungus. If this all sounds very strange, it really does make a pleasant sour fizzy drink, becoming more sour over time. So before it gets too sour I draw off several litres worth into empty glass bottles and store it in the fridge. I then add a fresh batch of tea to the jar and know that it will be ready within a week.

So that is our version of the whole fermented business. It has been interesting, tasty and I could even say the process has been a bit of a fun adventure. My kitchen benches have never been so cluttered, but I don't think the bench space could be put to a better purpose than the nourishing of the family within these walls.

Suggested reading:


Wild Fermentation : The Flavour, Nutrition and Craft of Live -Culture Foods
Nourishing Traditions
Kombucha : The Miracle Fungus
Kefir : For Pleasure, Beauty and Well-Being 

Online articles

Repairing the Gut
The Definitive Guide to Fermented Foods

Monday, May 27, 2013

life and knitting

Somehow, here and there, between the many days out last week, the temporary single parenting and then the virus going around that had me in bed most of Sunday, I managed to find a little time to squeeze some knitting in. It seems I cannot put my mind to sewing when life is a little bumpy, but I can somehow manage to squeeze in a little time for knitting. My Tea Leaves cardigan, though started last year and then abandoned at the start of the warmer weather, is coming along slowly. I even justified buying another basket at the op shop just for this project. (Where do they all go?) Proof that you can never have too many baskets. I am enjoying the predictable stockinette stage of this project, and not really having to think about it for now. Knitting can be a soothing constant in life, kind of like hitting that pause or re-set button in amongst the daily chaos.

Because I am easily distracted I am also thinking of starting a cowl, and I was rather struck with this one. The cold weather has me reaching for scarves daily, and I'm getting a little tired of the two that I always wear. By now I think everyone in town must be able to identify my red floral scarf (which is not particularly warm anyway). I haven't bought any new yarn this season, as I'm trying to use up what is in the stash, staying away from those tempting websites with richly coloured yarns.

Most projects to date have been for the kids, but this season will hopefully see me adding a few things to my own wardrobe. Perhaps a scarf, a cowl and a hat. Just a few simple, but practical items. If I can manage to make them from the stash so much the better, but easier said than done.

What knitting plans do you have for this season?
Are you going to or are you already making something for yourself?
Do you have a favourite scarf, cowl or hat pattern?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

quite busy

 knitted hand-me-downs

This week has already half passed me by in a bit of a whirlwind. Sorry for the absence of posts this week. Right now life continues to be quite busy, with Daniel home and away all week (this single parenting is no easy gig), and yesterday a sports carnival to attend.  I can't remember the last time I was so very tired. I sat on the lounge last night too tired to talk, to knit or even to read. It brought back memories of those long tiring days of working on check-outs in busy supermarkets, and I guess in some ways feeling that tiredness again can be a useful reminder of those days of my life.

Today I am going to take it a little easier, not do too much and just enjoy being at home. It is fun to get out and do things, but so very nice to know that I can stay home and recover (and catch up) the very next day.  I am off now to make my second cup of coffee for the day, purposely ignoring the half done washing up in the sink. The fire is on and the sun is out. For just a little while longer the housework can wait.

Friday, May 17, 2013

looking for the sunshine


Most of the time I use this blog as a wider way of sharing projects, thoughts and ideas. Sometimes I use it to documents small moments and events in time. Other times I use it like a well worn diary (if a little more edited), similar to writing out, or releasing a feeling, a thought, and moving on. Because I have always had the unfortunate tendency of wearing my heart on my sleeve. Or not often leaving things unsaid.

This week has not been the best week. Just a bit more tiring than usual, a little more rushed, slightly more uncooperative on the home front. No time for those half finished knitting or sewing projects and too cold to be out in the garden, all of which usually serves as a kind of therapy in amongst the stresses of daily life. On top of that speaking up for what you don't believe in (weed spraying at the local school) and finding those on the opposite side of the debate equally passionate. Some weeks are just plain hard, if only in an everyday kind of way.

So here are a few little pictures I found on my camera, and though I barely had time to pick up the camera this week, it is nice to find a few on there. It made me realise that it's not really all that bad. In every day, in every week, there are small moments of sunshine. Sometimes you just need to look a little harder to find them.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

breastfeeding follow up

I wasn't quite sure what to expect after my last post. It was a subject that I had so far chosen not to go into, for fear of opening a can of worms. To be honest, until recently, I had not really given it too much thought.  Breastfeeding was just a natural part of everyday life and babies grow up very quickly. Before I knew it here I was feeding a two and half year old (the other two were weaned by me at around the 18 month mark, which was no easy process). But I had started to notice the occasional raised eyebrow and a changing attitude over the past year, most of which I choose to ignore or laugh off. I try to avoid feeding when out if possible because I have been made to feel a little self conscious in the past, but I don't avoid the subject in conversation. Which is why I chose to write about it here in the first place. It is not something you see very often, and seems to carry with it a certain social stigma. Most of us are aware of the uproar that was caused by The Slap. I wondered how many other mothers were also in the closet about breastfeeding past the usual year or so. It felt right to raise the topic here, and put it out there (so to speak).

There were many wonderfully supportive comments and experiences shared. Just as there were also those that did admit to finding it uncomfortable, and I kind of expected that. Each to their own. I am okay with the honesty of the comments. But I do have to say that nobody knows your situation and your child's temperament quite like you do. There is often the preconceived idea of spoiling your child by extended breastfeeding, but I feel that this bears little reflection on other boundaries in the child's life. Some little ones are extremely attached to the experience, just as others become attached to their bottles or a particular toy. It is really a short, but precious time in the scheme of things.

In a positive light I thought I would share a few encouraging articles :

Breastfeeding your Toddler (ABA)

Breastfeeding Past Infancy : Fact Sheet

What are the Benefits of Breastfeeding a Toddler? (Thank you Christina, for this and the next link)

Suggested Responses to Still Nursing

*By no means am I saying that this is the only or right way, as many choose or have no choice but to wean. But I am hoping this may help someone who is struggling with whether or not to continue feeding.

Monday, May 13, 2013

still breastfeeding

It's been two and half years now. And yes, I'm still breastfeeding. Things have always gone fairly smoothly in that regard, and I'd hoped to reach the two year mark, but we've gone past that now. It still feels a natural and comforting thing to do, but I'm also aware, from the remarks and attitudes of people in general, that it is not really the done thing. I'm feeling that pressure, and some of it is quite close to home. There is a perception of weakness, of giving in and perhaps being unable to let go.

Granted, it is not the easiest thing to breastfeed a toddler, with comforting feeds required for sleeping, and in some ways it is quite demanding. I would gladly wean tomorrow if I knew the transition would be an easy one. But it is all that they know, and it is a difficult thing to take away the connection that is such a significant part of their little life.

But I look at her and I know that she is thriving, with new words daily, and I can't remember the last time she was sick. I cling onto the story of a close relative that breastfed until the day he turned three, and so the decision to stop was able to be discussed with him. It may be going against the grain with many people, but for now I am okay with the choice that yes, we are still feeding.

Friday, May 10, 2013

mini me pyjamas

I hope you will forgive me for being a little obsessed with pyjamas this week. After sewing up the first pair, I quickly cut out and sewed another pair for myself. Not usually being one for the matching thing, so I'm not sure what came over me, but I soon had the energy to whip up another three sets of pyjamas, but this time in miniature.

I used two old single flannelette sheets in all, with some left over. Julia's pair were traced from her existing pyjama pants, adding seam, hem and elastic allowances, but I added more width in the leg to match my pair and a few extra inches on the length. This is a very easy thing to do and with something like pyjamas there is no precise measurements required, and a little more room for error. I first read about this method in The Creative Family. I then took one of her old tops, that was a little marked, and used a few flowers from the pattern over the marks, attaching with a zig zag stitch.

As for Violet's, you may remember her two pairs I made last year. The tops have been well and truly outgrown, but the pants are still hanging in there. To make the new pants I simply traced around the old pair as above, but I added a few extra inches in length. I think I took the original pattern from tracing around her Quick Change Trousers. The second pair I used a piece of "new" flannel from the op shop. I then took a few hand-me-down tops and added a pocket on one and a few simple applique hearts on the other.

I really had fun making these, and it was a very quick and easy project, all completed within one day and really only spending a few hours. Sadly very "mini me", and feeling a little Sound of Music-like, but it is all in good fun. Not to mention rather practical too.

And for now these girls are quite happy for us all to be matching.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

the gift of food

It never ceases to amaze me how generous most people are that live in this little valley. Over the time we have lived here we have been kindly gifted many eggs, bags of zucchinis, pickles, apples, pomegranates and numerous other vegies. Even a full load of compost. Interestingly, we don't live in a food growing region. The weather conditions are harsh, the soil eroded, and the whole region is in a rain shadow. Any local will tell you growing food here is not easy, to say the least. But not impossible.

So I try to find out as much as I can from these greenthumbs of the community. I think slowly we are getting there. We now know what is best to plant in Winter and when. That shade is very important in summer. We also know that we do need a green house and perhaps a poly tunnel to compensate for the short summer season.

ratatouille cooked from a neighbour's vegies

There is a lot to be said for the smaller communities, though living apart as they do in rural settings, there is a greater familiarity with neighbours than I ever did find in the suburbs. Perhaps a comfortable distance naturally brings people together.  I have seen this from various community gatherings, music bands, Sunday coffee drop-ins to the testing times of our recent fires. It is a reassuring to know that we live within a community of capable, down-to-earth type of people. Where old fashioned skills are not uncommon.

Sharing of food has it's way of bringing communities just that little bit closer. And isn't it wonderful to not have to put those items in the trolley?   If communities can grow what they can and informally barter then that has to be a very good thing.  For our health, the planet and our pockets.                                   

So meanwhile we make plans for chickens, new garden plots and a greenhouse. It has taken us some time to get to this stage, and while delays can be frustrating, I think we will eventually get there. Until then we are so very appreciative of the the occasional gifts of excess eggs or vegies that may happen to come our way.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

repurposed : pyjama pants

My five year old favourite pyjama pants were sadly wearing very thin. Comfortable yes, but they certainly were not the prettiest site. On the weekend I bravely picked them apart to make one side into a pattern piece. I had been planning this for quite some time, but I suppose I was waiting until they had well and truly had their day. This is the first time I've tried this method, because it is a little scary to take a favourite piece apart. Knowing that you can never wear it again, even if it is no longer very wearable. But I love this method and I now have plans for another well worn but holey top in my wardrobe.

What I loved about this pair is that they were generously wide legged, not too high in the waist and so a little more flattering than most pairs on. For me, they were the holy grail of pyjama pants. Once apart I realized that there was only one leg seam in each side, which made the sewing part a whole lot easier. The pattern piece itself seemed absurdly wide and short, but it does work.  I kept the faux fly detail, which although it took a little fiddling, was not really difficult.

The only flannel I had on hand was some old sheets, but it does feel good to repurpose something into a useful item for next to nothing. I quite like the floral mustard tones, something you don't really see much of anymore.

All in all this took just a few hours to whip up, over the space of two days. And I now have a comfy pair of pyjamas to replace my beloved striped pair. Another vintage sheet is at the ready to make another pair this week, with future hopes of a fancier version for holidays etc with perhaps some Anna Maria Horner flannel.

I guess it's saying something that I'm still wearing them past nine o'clock this morning. (Luckily Daniel took the kids to school).

Monday, May 6, 2013

little projects

The weekend marked the start of Luca's soccer season, as Julia continues her weekend sewing lessons. So we return to early and often chaotic mornings, despite my night before attempts to organize things. But once the rushing around is over we return home and usually won't go out again for the remainder of the weekend. Which tends to leave a nice chunk of time to start and sometimes finish those little projects. Brick borders for the Robinia's were completed, and I look forward to filling them with some flowers. Those old (free) barn bricks have come in so handy. A few magazines were culled over a coffee. The garden map with fruit tree varieties and dates has finally been completed.

A practical sewing project for myself has been started. We ate salad fresh from the garden and a soup from beef broth that simmered for two days. But I have to say that there is nothing as tasty or as satisfying as starting off the day with bacon and eggs (scrambled on the weekends instead of weekday fried). Even better with some extras like avocado, mushrooms and tomato.

Weekend food and weekend projects, things we often don't have time for during the week, and yet by slowing down on the weekend and pottering around, we often find the time to do these things we really want or need to do.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Eight Little Things

  1. Knitted things, old blankets and a sling that no longer fit. All well loved and well used. But I can't bear to give them away.
  2. Cleaning out the wardrobes and making sure there are enough Winter clothes. Thank goodness for op shops and hand-me-downs. I'm hoping to make a few things to fill the gaps.
  3. An almost finished made by Julia skirt - her first machine project.
  4. Little Treasures : Made by Hand arrived in the mail yesterday. An independent little book full of beautiful pictures and ideas for projects. The perfect little coffee escape.
  5. Also in the mail - a small perennials order for the front garden from Honeysuckle Cottage. Be warned that it is easy to get lost within this site reading all about old world roses and uncommon flowers.
  6. A new top for Julia is in the works.
  7. Old quilts pulled out of storage for the lounge.
  8. Coffee. Always coffee these days.

What little things have you been enjoying this week?