Friday, August 31, 2012

Up North

The propellers outside hummed loudly (reassuringly). We pressed our noses to the windows, looked out on the wild top coast of Australia. The fires lit by thousands of years of tradition. And then, we were there. 

Groote Eylandt.


More to come soon, from our adventures ...
Amanda xx

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ironing is the New Loo


I know a certain someone who now and then vanishes into the loo. The toilet. The bathroom. Book in hand, and with more secrecy than showmanship, {this person} slips behind a closed door for significant periods of quiet and privacy. 

"Hey, {name}" I shout, "where are you? I need help with the dishes/vacuuming/BBQ/laundry/etc!" or I call impatiently: "We've got to go!" with harried glances at the time on my phone.

And what's the response I hear?
"But I'm in/on the toilet!"
which really means
"Ha! Get out of jail free card, bitch"
{except that this person would never call me that. if they wanted food ever again.}

Well. I'm not one to take my mental breaks in the bathroom. And let me tell you, trying to sneak a book out onto the balcony doesn't work either. {Your child will find you.}

But I've just found something that does get me some precious moments to myself - to think or not think or whatever.

Ironing.
Seriously, ironing is the best. thing. ever.

Even before having kid I never liked ironing. It seemed pointless, and did I really care if my shirt or dress or pillowcase was wrinkled? Nope. But I recently read a book called Savvy Chic, which talked about how you can have nice things for little money, and if you buy them and use them and treat them well {ironing being one way} you can even make your thrifty things look spectacularly fancy.

I like that idea, so I started ironing.

And you know what? Ironing's awesome. Me time. Get out of jail free, baby.
Because
  1. I'm doing work,
  2. work my significant other doesn't want to do
  3. and the iron is hot hot hot. Meaning no children allowed anywhere in my proximity.
Oh, this is infallible genius, people.

Now. Off to wash and wrinkle some clothes ...
Amanda xx

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Empower and Inspire. Spring 2012.

There's sunshine at my window, and the geckos have started chirping to one another again. 
Know what that means? 

Spring!


I've been off and on with my shops lately ... to be honest, I'm not sure where I want to take it all. Because at heart, I want to EMPOWER all you gorgeous people out there to treat yourselves kindly - which in my opinion means showing you how to make beautiful food and skincare products for yourself. Living by example. Teaching. Blogging about my own ups and downs and attempts at sustainability {eco and mental}. Really, I'm not about just making stuff to sell to you. I've been a bit uncertain where to take my shop.

So, I've been sitting in the sunshine, drinking coffee, and working on some ideas for how to make the empowerment and inspiration thing happen. Here are two of my ideas ...

#1 - If you like my photography and the skincare products I currently make, then come and find me at next Saturday's Home Festival at Kangaroo Point, Brisbane. I'll be selling vintage and handmade wares at the Suitcase Rummage, including SELLING OFF THE REST OF MY CURRENT STOCK AT VERY DISCOUNTED PRICES. 

Yep, it's a clearance sale!! I want to start from scratch, and I know you can help me make that happen.


#2 - and this is what I'm most excited about ... I have JUST TODAY opened a pop-up store. I love the idea {borrowed from Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks} of crafting a shop out of seasonal {spring-y!} things that I love. Things I want to share with all of you out there, because I think they're awesome. And because I think you're awesome.

My Spring 2012 shop includes 


You can find my Spring 2012 pop-up shop here, and it'll only be online for a month, or until everything's sold out. I hope you enjoy it!
Amanda xx

Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Top 15 Ways to Use Stuff Up

Last night was the Sydney ABCD bloggers/designers meet-up, this time centred around the idea of sharing. I'll for sure be sharing some of the things I got in the infamous 'goodie bag' {except for those brownies - gone} ... but in the meantime, I thought in the spirit of sharing, I might tell you my top 15 ways to use stuff up. Reduce waste. Save money by not throwing {expensive} food out.

Enjoy!
Amanda xx

***********

I can't stand wasting things, especially things that were alive once - that drank water and sat in soil and felt the warm sun. In fact, I have to admit that a lot of what we eat around my house revolves around 
  • what looked good at the farmer's market/supermarket
  • what was cheap at the farmer's market/supermarket
  • what needs using up pronto
So yes, I will concoct a risotto out of wilted lettuce because I want that lettuce to have a chance - any chance - to shine. And personally, I think that is a really cool thing to do.


{Of course, I'm biased.}

And here are some of my other favourite ways to use up stuff.

1. Bananas. Peel and freeze them or slice them thinly and set them on a rack to dry in the back window of your car. Seriously. Back window.

2. Milk. Make ricotta or yogurt. Make your ricotta into bread. Freeze it. Use it in baking. Slightly-soured milk does wonders for a cake!


3. Tomato paste. Freeze it in little cubes. Use it in quantities that make sense {unlike 250mL, right?}

4. Random veggies. Dice them up and make the greatest-ever sesame salt for your stirfry. Almost anything goes contentedly into an omelette, or frittata, or scrambled eggs ... Milk and cheese can make almost any leftover veggies happy!


5. Random wilty veggies and veggie-tops. Slow cook an excellent stock. Freeze some, so you can remember it later on and make a delish soup or risotto with it.

6. Ginger. Freeze it or plant it or dehydrate it or pickle it for sushi. Make a lassi and pretend you're traveling. Ginger is amazing.

7. Lemons or limes. Use every last bit of your precious citrus ... including the zest! You might even want to use leftover shells for cleaning. {If you're so inclined ...}


8. Stale bread. Those terrible, child-loathed crusts. Cut them up into cubes and freeze them til you have enough to make stuffing. Or bread pudding. Something where a rich sauce/stock soaks up into all that dry bread and transforms it into pure, edible gold.

9. Leftover wine? Are you kidding? Well, it happens ... and when it does, make your very own flavoursome vinegar with it. Or freeze it in cubes for adding to stews later on. {When you don't want to waste a drop of the bottle you've got open.}

10. Tomatoes. Sometimes you end up with so many it makes you cringe to look at them. If that happens, just pop them in the oven {whole, or chunked} and roast till they're crinkly and soft and maybe even slightly charred. You can make them into a sauce, or if they get semi-dried enough, you can add them to sandwiches or oil-dressed pasta. Freeze leftovers for emergencies.


11. Melon rind. Did you know that a fresh, organic melon rind makes incredible pickles? Try watermelon or honeydew ... something with a softish rind, and be prepared to become addicted. 

12. Kale. Leafy stuff. When there's only so much you can take, stick the rest into the oven and make 'chips' ... or, if you're like me, make chips then crumble them into a sprinkle for salads.


13. Beer. You know when your husband forgets a $4 beer in the freezer? Don't waste it. Make it into ale bread! Slather with butter, and honey, and marvel at your own genius.

14. Too much of a good thing. I went to an organic market once and convinced myself I needed 2kg of crisp, green beans. Instead of overdosing on produce, you can cut them up and blanch them - then pop them in the freezer for when you're not so ... er ... lucky. Try this with any number of veggies.

15. Egg whites? Make meringue. {They also freeze well for later.} Egg yolks? Cookies. Or custard. Or ice cream! Or add to your next batch of breakfast eggs.


So, these are some of my favourite tips to share ... do you have some?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Questions About Grief and Growing Up {Reflections}

I spend a lot of time lately wondering if my darling Nelle's ok. Looking for signs that her sweet, sunny aspect is shadowed with grief. And if it's there, even for a second, what do I do? How do I allay her fears? How do I make this time easier? For her, for me, for Robbie ... all hurting in our own ways, own times, and sometimes own spaces.

I spoke to someone today who reminded me that these past few years have been hard. Sometimes you forget that, all you've been through, all we've ALL been through. Then you start listing it all off and suddenly it seems overwhelming. For me, for us, it's been cancer and the loss of two people we loved dearly. Sometimes I think it's all behind me ... all the fear and sadness ... but mostly I just live onwards accepting that death is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I try to live happy. Sometimes I fail, but that's ok. Mostly, I'm happy.

But how do I explain all that to her? She's only 5. Surely it's enough that she knows how loved she is ... that she knows her Grammy and Grandpa are in her heart now, with her whenever she needs them ... that she knows we're not perfect but we do our best ... 

Is it? Or are there darknesses beneath the surface that we can't see? How much sadness resides in that little heart I love so much? And will I be able to show her how to use it to make herself stronger? That's what I want for my baby girl - resiliance, happiness, sunshine, strength. 

And what I want for myself? To be the woman who can exemplify resiliance, happiness, sunshine and strength.
A xx

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Rosemary & Thyme Water Crackers {With the Kids}


This is such a great activity to do with your kids - they can knead and roll and cookie-cut, but without the sugar overload that happens when cookies are sampled ... Plus, you have not tasted crackers till you've made your own. You won't even want to corrupt them with fancy cheeses.  

That good.

If you have a breadmaker and/or a pasta machine, here's your chance to put them to good use. I use my breadmaker to mix my doughs for me - but then again, I don't have a Kitchen Aid, so you could use that if you prefer. Or child labor. I then use my pasta machine to roll out super-thin bits of dough, which bake into lovely, crispy crackers. But it's ok if you don't have one ... you can use a rolling pin or an empty wine bottle and your muscles instead. The crackers will be a little thicker, but still just as lovely, I promise. This recipe is pretty resilient to kid-cooking practices, so don't worry too much about precision ... just enjoy!


I used macadamia oil here because I love its flavour, and we use olive oil so often in our household that I thought it'd be a good idea to change up a little. Macadamias are a Queensland native, so we're lucky enough to get local oil - but if it's too expensive or rare for you, just use olive oil instead. A nice fruity one would be ideal.

Simple things make me happy. {So does that girl right there, and her Daddy.}
Have a happy weekend, friends,
Amanda xx


************
Rosemary & Thyme Water Crackers
makes a gazillion. depending on how you cut them. 
{I got two jars full}

The ingredients
1 1/2 cups unbleached plain flour
1 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup macadamia oil (or olive oil)
1 to 1 1/2 cups warm water

The flavourings
rosemary and/or thyme {leaves only}, to taste
extra flaked sea salt, to taste

*As always, try to use organic when you can


The process
1.Mix all the ingredients but the water {I used my bread machine} then start adding the water 1/2 cup at a time {as you knead} until the dough starts to clump together into a big ball. Then, slow down the water-adding. When it's a nice soft-but-holding-together dough, cover it and leave it alone for 30 minutes or so.

2. Preheat the oven to 180C - with pizza stones in there if you have them. When the pizza stone heats up, it helps cook the crackers from underneath as well - enhancing their crispiness.

3. Take palm-sized bits of dough and roll them out one at a time on a lightly-floured surface as thin as you can get them {or using a pasta machine - start at the highest setting and progressively go down a couple levels ... on mine it's level 5}.

4. Use a cookie cutter to cut out little shapes - if you want. Otherwise you can just do big strips of cracker, or haphazard cutting with your knife. Sprinkle with herbs and sea salt, and use your rolling pin to gently smoosh the toppings into the surface of the crackers {so they don't just slip off}. Use a fork to prick little holes in the surface of each cracker so they don't puff up too much.

5. Transfer the crackers to the preheated baking tray and bake in the oven until golden and crispy, ~5-10 minutes, depending on what kind of tray you're using and how small/thin you cut them. Remove from the oven and tray and cool on a rack.

6. When cool, store in a jar. But they won't retain their beautiful crispiness for toooo long, so enjoy them as soon as you can. I recommend having friends over ... kids will devour these crackers, plain or with butter ... and ask all the grownups to bring a dip and a bottle of wine and you'll be set for a great Saturday afternoon!

The cost
Oh so cheap. This is basically flour, after all! A big batch of organic water crackers will cost you ~ $3. Worth every cent.

{She thinks so too}


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Easy Peasy Peanut Butter Cookies


Do you ever have those days where you just need a cookie? Like it's air, or sanity, or potential all wrapped up in an ever-so-slightly crispy exterior? 

But you just can't be bothered to cream butter?

Sometimes I suffer from that tragic combination of desire + apathy. Sometimes there's even a dash of edginess thrown in for good measure. And this is a great recipe for those times. Why? Because it's fast, it's simple, and you can basically mix/melt all the ingredients in a Pyrex measuring cup.

Also because these peanut butter cookies suit vanilla ice cream something magical. So I really hope you have vanilla ice cream at home, because otherwise you're liable to end up in apathetic desirous tears begging your husband to drive down to the shops to get some. {And I'll tell you something - it doesn't work nearly so well when you're not pregnant.}
Sigh,
Amanda xx

***********
Easy Peasy Peanut Butter Cookies
makes ~20 cookies so small you can eat 4 of them at a time and not feel guilty

The time
5-10 min prep + 5-8 min baking + 10 min cooling

The ingredients
3/4 cup chunky natural peanut butter
1 large organic egg
1/2 cup rolled oats
a pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or cinnamon or desiccated coconut (optional)

*Try to use organic when you can

The process
1. Preheat the oven to 160C (325F). Line a tray or pizza stone with baking paper.

2. Measure the peanut butter and sugar into a Pyrex jug, and microwave for 10-20 seconds until soft and stirrable. Add the egg, oats and optional extras and mix to combine.

3. Use your hands to form the dough into Tbs-sized balls and place them a few centimeters apart on the baking sheet. Use a fork to smoosh them slightly {and to give them their characteristic peanut butter-cookie markings}.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 5-8 minutes, checking them regularly! Remove when they're browned nicely on the surface and when they don't sink in when you gently press on the middle. Leave them on the sheet until they cool, because they'll solidify as they do so. Then remove and store in an airtight container, or in a large bowl with numerous scoops of ice cream. Enjoy!

The cost
I always try to buy 'natural' peanut butter - and prefer organic - because it doesn't tend to have the extra sugar or salt or weird stuff in it. If you're lucky, your local natural food store might even have freshly ground peanut butter. Yum. Each organic batch costs me around $3 - most of which comes from the peanut butter. {Which if you want to buy organic and inexpensive, I recommend Macro brand at Woolies.}

Friday, August 3, 2012

3 Steps to Inner Quiet

well. I've had one of those inexplicably unsettled days ...

most incredible sleep of all time? tick.
sunshine? tick.
breakfast picnic on the deck with Nelle? tick.
great coffee with a friend? tick.
yoga? tick.

so why. do i feel. like shit?
what the hell is going on here?

time to brew myself some inner quiet.
three little steps.


and some days the world just looks better when viewed through the steam off a cup of chai ...
Amanda xx

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