Friday, 30 June 2017

Spreading Ripples: A Book List

Reading is one of the constant and indulgent joys of my life. My love of reading began with the Enid Blyton storybooks a family friend gifted to me when I was smaller than six and which I still have, my name carefully written in my child's hand, on the inside covers of many. (I have shared the adventures of all those at the top of the Magic Faraway Tree with my beautiful boy and would still dearly love to try an exploding toffee shock!)  There was always a book tucked up with me in bed when I was young and now I always have a tall pile of them, teetering on near collapse, on my bedside table. I borrow many from my local library and there are some I have bought and kept over the years that I treasure and visit with time and again, like old friends!

A little book filled with inspiration!

One such book, that has lived on my study bookshelf for many years and which I return to from time to time when I feel a little overwhelmed by the challenges facing our world, and what I can do about them, is this one. Written by the inspiring and optimistic Tony Ryan, The Ripple Effect:  How You Can Make A Difference to the World Every Day is only a little book but it is filled with examples of the way in which positive ripples can be created and how they can spread out to bring about change and hope. In this book's preface, Tony has written:

"All of the little things you do in every moment of your life can ripple out to create endless changes in the lives of others ... one of your tiny actions this very day could ripple out and make a positive change to the world."

So, in the spirit of spreading ripples and weaving in with this post I did earlier in the week, on the changes we've made to try and live more sustainably here, I have added a page at the top of my blog with a list of books, poems and a film or two that are filled with words and hope for nature, our Earth... and us! I have read (or viewed) all of them and they have all inspired me in one way or another. Many live here with me on my bookshelf. Perhaps you might enjoy a few, or all, of them too!

I hope you have a lovely weekend. Perhaps you'll have time to read a little or to intentionally create a happy and hopeful ripple ❤


p.s. Please feel free to comment with the titles & authors of books you have read, or documentaries and films that you've seen, that you have loved and that you think inspire hope for nature, our world and us. 

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

A Lovely Lemon Slice

An oaty biscuit base, a tangy filling and a crumbly topping make up the layers of this lovely Lemon Crumble Slice. 

A lovely and lemony slice.

When a beautiful and generous friend gave me a bag full of Winter citrus from her trees recently, I set about making the most of those tangy fruits. With the juice from the fragrant lemons I made this slice, a firm favourite here in our house.  The original recipe, came from Lauren and Lucy over at Thermobliss, but I tweaked it (as is my way) to cut down on the sweetness in the base and topping. Although I have a Thermomix, I don't use it to make this slice. I do it this way instead:

Lemon Crumble Slice

Base & Topping
1 1/4 cups white spelt flour (or plain flour)
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1/3 cup dessicated coconut
170g butter, melted

1 tin condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 egg yolks

1.  Preheat oven to 180C.

2.  Line a 20cm x 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.

3.  Combine dry ingredients for the base/topping in a large bowl.

4.  Make a well in the centre and pour in the melted butter.

5.  Mix thoroughly.

6.  Spoon half of this oaty mixture into the cake tin and press down gently with fingertips to cover the bottom of the tin evenly and form the biscuit base of the slice.  Set remaining mixture aside.

7.  Bake base for 10-15minutes until lightly golden.  Cool while you make the filling.

8.  Beat condensed milk, lemon juice and egg yolks together, in a clean bowl, with hand 
     mixer until smooth, thick and creamy.

9.  Pour this lemony mixture onto the cooked base of your slice.

10. Crumble the rest of the oaty mixture over the top of the lemony filling and press this 
       topping down very gently with your hands. 

11. Bake in oven for 20-25mins until topping is lightly golden. Remove and cool in the tin.

12. Cover and refrigerate overnight before removing from the tin and cutting into small 
      squares.  Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.

Oaty Base

Lemony Filling

Crumbly Topping

Although I cut this slice into quite small pieces, it still seems to disappear here at a very rapid rate. You might need a lock on the fridge if you decide to give it a try! 


Monday, 26 June 2017

Earth Care at our Place

There is much about sustainability "swirling" around us all the time now as our world grapples with environmental challenges, not the least of which is climate change. Just recently here, there has been the popular television program, ABC TV's War on Waste, media reporting of imminent energy price hikes in some Australian states, the release of the independent Finkel Review into the future security of the National Electricity Market, the controversy surrounding the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine in Queensland's Galilee Basin, widespread coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef and so on ... 

If you are anything like me, sometimes all this can be overwhelming and can leave you wondering, "What can I do about all of this?" "Will anything I do make a difference?" The answer to those questions, for me, lies in one of Permaculture's key ethics. Maddy Harland, in an article for the magazine Permaculture (Vol. 82, Winter 2014)  wrote "Earth Care ... involves many decisions...we can make choices about what and how we consume and conserve." I think the choices we make as individuals count, I think they merge with the choices of others, like Fiona and Cheryl and Morag and Tammy, to create ripples for change in the world around us. 

So, here are some of the choices we make at our place. Did we make these changes overnight? No. Is there more we could do? Yes. But a beginning is a start, isn't it!

For the House ... 

Solar panels and solar hot water on our roof.
(We make a conscious effort to use appliances like wash machine in daylight hours.)

We collect rainwater from our roof.
(We have this small tank and a much larger one under our house.)

In the kitchen .... 

We grow and eat some of our own food.
(Reduces the food miles significantly.)

Healthy, wholesome meals made from scratch in our kitchen.
(Meat-free meals appear on our table regularly too.)

Reusable storage containers, pockets, covers and beeswax wraps.
(I no longer need to buy plastic kitchen wrap!)

Buying in bulk helps reduce packaging that comes into our home.
(Stored in good quality, air tight containers.)

Fruit and vegetable scraps go into our worm farm.
(Significantly reduces waste and returns goodness to the soil.)

In the Laundry & Bathroom ...

 The cleaning products and hand knitted washcloths we use.
(This is not a sponsored photo or post, simply the products we use.)

I buy this in bulk box of 48 double length rolls of 100% recycled toilet paper.
(Again, this is not a sponsored photo or post, simply a product we use.)

 Sunshine dries our washing.
(We have a line under the house and airing racks for wet days.)

On Our Bodies ...

Sewing some of our own clothes.
(A new skill I'm learning!)

A few simple products for skin and hair.
(Soap, coconut oil as moisturiser & apple cider vinegar as hair conditioner.)

Sourcing some pre-loved clothes from op-shops.
(I love this new-to-me top & wear it often.)

In the Garden ...

Our garden is a haven for wildlife like bees, lizards, birds and more... 
(We grow some native plants, have bird baths for water.)

We make compost from garden trimmings.
(This compost feeds our soil rather than garden waste going to landfill.)

Our garden prunings become mulch which feeds and protects our soil.
(Less waste destined for landfill.)

Handweeding instead of using chemicals.
(Fewer chemicals, that can adversely affect human & animal health, in the environment.)

Out and about ...

Reusable shopping bags and produce bags.
(Significantly reduces single-use plastic that comes into our home.)

One of our reusable water bottles. 
(We have stainless steel straws too in case we get milkshakes!)

We visit & borrow often from our local library.
(Books like this one broaden our knowledge & give us ideas.)

We spend time outside, soaking up and getting to know nature, as often as possible.
("We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know.")
~ Richard Louv

You may do similar things at your place or you may do things differently. What we do here is by no means an exhaustive list (Far from it!). In the spirit of creating and spreading ripples, I hope you'll have ideas of your own that you can share. I'd love to know what you do at your place.

Happy Monday to you all.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Cooking for the Day

The day began with a nutritious omelette filled with leftover roasted veg and spinach and ended, feet up and smiling, with a bowl of warm dessert. Time spent in our kitchen often yields much homemade goodness. So it was today ...

A healthy way to start the day with eggs and veggies.
(Just add toast!)

Crunchy, little biscuits for morning and afternoon snacks.
(The smell of them baking wafted through the whole house!)

The beginnings of a flavourful stew that simmered slowly & became dinner.
(And it will be tomorrow night's dinner too;)

  Winter Apple Crumble and homemade Salted Caramel Ice-cream for dessert.
(Perfect partners, these two!)

To be honest, I managed to produce a fair amount of washing up in the process of all this cooking but, and it's an important BUT, I like knowing what's in our food. In this food, there are wholesome ingredients, not fake ingredients. I know what's in it because I made it. Nothing about it was fast. Indeed the stew bubbled along all day and the ice-cream mixture had to be whisked, twice! There is time and effort and love in this food. And, and it's an important AND, it was a delicious day. Well worth the washing up!

I hope you have a delicious day too!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Pumpkin & Silverbeet Lasagna

I love vegetarian lasagnas. Layered, meat-free, nourishing and tasty. This particular version is one I make a lot when there is an abundance of silverbeet in the Winter veggie patch.

Silverbeet growing in our garden.

Pumpkin & Silverbeet Lasagna

400g mashed pumpkin
4-5 washed silverbeet leaves
300g ricotta
ground nutmeg
500mLs tomato passatta
lasagna sheets
grated mozzerella cheese

1.  Preheat over to 200C.  Grease and line (if you wish) a large, deep lasagna dish.

2.  Finely shred silverbeet leaves then mix together with ricotta and pumpkin in large bowl.
      Season with pinch or two of nutmeg.

3.  Coat base of lasagna dish with some of the tomato passatta.

4.  Lay down enough lasagna sheets to cover the passatta.

5.  Spread out a layer of the ricotta, pumpkin and silverbeet mixture on top of the lasagna

6.  Repeat layers of passatta, lasagna sheets and the ricotta mixture to fill your dish.

7.  Finish with passata and top with grated mozerella cheese.

8.  Bake in the oven until golden brown.

9.  Remove and let the lasagna sit for 10 minutes or so before cutting and serving ... 
      perhaps with some fresh, crusty bread.

A delicious way to use silverbeet!

Silverbeet is one of those leafy green veggies I have learned to love as an adult. I detested it as a child as my Nanna would boil it until it was soggy, limp and devoid of it's vibrant green. This is totally different and delicious! 


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Sweet & Simple Saturday

What do you have planned for your Saturday?  My plans are for a simple day here at home. I'm looking forward to pottering in the garden for there are seedlings to plant. Lettuce and baby carrot and some more broccoli. I intend on baking too using the juicy citrus that came from a generous friend's trees. I'm thinking orange cakelemon slice and this lovely lime dessert.  There will most definitely be time for reading, to finish off a "sweet" book that I borrowed from the local library.  I'm sure I can find a sunny corner on the verandah, where the boards are warm, to read in. Perhaps I'll doze ...

 Light reading, a little posy of cottage flowers and citrus from a lovely friend's garden.

I love how days like these unfold slowly, behind the blue gates of our place, unhurried and happy just to be here at home.

I hope you have a lovely Saturday too. 


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

What is Sustainable Food?

There are lots of definitions of the term sustainability. Add the term to the word "food" and you get just as many definitions and arguments. Recently though, I came across a book  in my local library, which I have reread twice and renewed as much as I'm allowed, that I think sets it out pretty clearly with no fancy words or ambiguity. 

Beaut little bananas and a great book!

In his thought-provoking and practical book, Sustainable FoodMichael Mobbs argues that sustainable food is "local, homegrown and you can walk to get it". I don't think a trolley laden with supermarket fare is likely to meet those criteria! What I do think though is that his definition is "food for thought" in terms of evaluating how we currently source our food and what to work towards to make our food supply as sustainable as possible. So, when thinking about the food we eat here, at our place, in suburbia ... 

Lovely Lollo Rosso lettuce growing in our garden.


Our garden grows food. Just outside my back door, running the entire length of our back ramp, is a productive veggie patch. Along the back fence there's a mandarin tree that's just finished fruiting, a passionfruit vine, a new native raspberry, three half wine barrels full of colourful flowers and veg and a tank garden filled with random seedlings that I'm experimenting with. At the bottom of the back garden there's an avocado tree that's growing well and that I hope will supply us with some fruit this year (it dropped them all last year). Running rampant over part of our backyard lawn at the moment is an out-of-control volunteer pumpkin vine with, so far, two maturing pumpkins on it.  Needless to say, we are mowing a wide arc around it at the moment. In amongst all this are herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano.

Tuscan Kale & Beetroot with Calendula in our veggie patch.

Our garden doesn't supply all our food, it doesn't supply all our fruit and veggies either. I can usually include something we've grown in the main meals of the day especially in the milder seasons of our year. (It becomes a real challenge in our Summers' scorching heat.) There are no backyard chickens (much to my dismay) to provide eggs as I'm pretty sure they'd become local food for the local pythons! So, from where do we source the food we can't/don't grow?


Growing food in your own garden or on your balcony is as local as it gets. After that, it's the food in your neighbourhood. Until a short while ago, we used to swap food regularly with a lovely next door neighbour and amazing gardener. Baskets of his produce would appear on our doorstep often and we responded in kind with offerings from our garden and our kitchen. This dear gardener has moved away now, down South to milder climes and more regular rainfall. I miss his generosity, his gardening knowledge and encouragement.

A bunch of bananas from a friend's garden.

A few of our nearby friends grow food too and occasionally, when we have excess, we swap. Mulberries from one dear friend's tree, bananas from another and limes from the bloke down the hill and round the corner. I always bring home fresh fruit after a visit with friends who live up in the Sunshine Coast hinterland and generously share their amazing produce.

A beautiful pumpkin from the little local market shop.

There are farmers' markets close by on Sundays and I visit a little organic market shop, just a ten minute drive from here, that stocks fruit & veg predominately from small farms and cottage producers. There's local honey and breads there too. I find their produce is usually of good quality so I often check their prices. I try to support this little local business because, without the community's support, it will close and then there will be less choice in our area.

Walk to Get It

In under a minute I can walk out my back door, down our back ramp and start picking from the veggie patch. I often walk around my garden munching on whatever is ripe! That's the shortest trip I make to source food. There is a small, well-stocked grocery shop and local bakery that is a twenty minute walk away along our bike path. Great for essentials like milk and bread if we run out. Besides that, and the occasional lime or passionfruit I find overhanging fences on my daily walk, I have to drive to get the rest.

Snow peas growing near the end of our back ramp.

All this matters because, as Michael Mobbs emphasises in his book, "The way we grow, transport and waste food from faraway farms, supermarkets and shops is the second highest cause of climate pollution after coal fired power stations". It's commonly accepted now (I hope) that climate pollution and climate change is a real problem for all of us. In comparison to coal fired power stations, making decisions about the food we eat feels a whole lot simpler!

Do I still buy some of our food from a supermarket? Yes, though not all of it and next to no fruit and veg. I have gradually reduced our supermarket shop over time, little by little, as I've found and made alternatives. We eat much less processed food and that has made a difference I think. Are there other things we could do? Yes, of course. We could expand what we grow here, we could garden on our verge and encourage our neighbours to do that too so that we could all share (Have you heard about Buderim's amazing Urban Food Street?). We could join a local box scheme that sources fruit/veg from farmers on the outskirts of our city. There would be no oranges from half way round the world in those boxes! When you grow some of your own and support local farmers and producers it can make a difference. 

Have you made changes to the way you source your food? If so, what prompted you to do so? 



Monday, 12 June 2017

Here & Now 13

It's been raining today. The sound of heavy droplets drumming on our roof woke me early this morning. I listened lazily for the longest time, tucked in under cosy Winter covers. It felt such an indulgence!  The rain continued for much of the day but cleared mid-afternoon in time for a short bushwalk. We strolled along under tall eucalypts, all wet bark and dripping leaves, and dodged the many puddles left by the rain on the rocky track. I love the way rain washes and polishes the colours of the forest and leaves raindrop "sparkles" on its leaves...

Raindrops cling to the very thin leaves of a native grass tree.

Sunlight after the rain. 

Raindrops sparkle on pine needles.

Loving //  Every opportunity to wear my woolly Winter jumpers.
Eating //  Generous bowls of warming split pea & bacon soup with thickly buttered sourdough slices.
Drinking //  Hot chocolates ... still with no marshmallows!
Feeling //  Winter's chill on the tip of my nose.
Making //  Big batches of ... soup!
Thinking //  ... of how beautiful raindrops are when they catch the sunlight.
Dreaming //  Of  a campervan holiday in Tasmania to see the snow (and wombats) again.

Now, we are back home again. Outside, the nighttime air is bracing and cold but hereinside our home,  we are snug and warm. I wonder if we'll wake to the sound of more rain tomorrow?


p.s. If you'd like to share you own Here & Now, you can join in with Sarah over on her gorgeous blog, Say, Little Hen

Monday, 5 June 2017

Winter's Apple Crumble

The weather is Wintery now, cold mornings followed by crisp, clear days and ending with chilly nights that are forecast by the high pink glow of evening skies.  We close the house up early, rug up in our woolly layers and warm ourselves with nourishing comfort foods.

This simple apple crumble is one of those lovely comfort foods I make regularly in Winter. It's delicious served with a big dollop of thick jersey cream or homemade custard and eaten while warming one's hands around the bowl. 

A warming homemade apple crumble.

This version of apple crumble comes from the recipe book, Australian Lifestyle Cookbook, that my mother gave me way back in 1992. I have made it more times than I can count and it remains a favourite. 

Just baked!

While the original recipe uses a 450g tin of pie apples, I make my own stewed apples for it. This time, I used some tart granny smith apples that had been discounted due to a few bumps and bruises. With a sprinkle of sugar and a pinch or three of cinnamon, they were just a good as unblemished apples.

Apple Crumble

                 For the stewed apples:                                                 For the crumble:
                5 large Granny Smith apples                                       3/4 cup plain or spelt flour
                1/4 cup filtered water                                                    3/4 cup powdered milk              
                1 Tablespoon raw sugar                                                90g softened butter
                1 teaspoon cinnamon                                                    1/2 cup coconut or brown sugar

How to make the stewed apple:
1.  Peel, core and thinly slice Granny Smith apples and put into a saucepan.
2.  Add water, sugar and cinnamon to apples and stir to combine.
3.  Place lid on saucepan and heat gently until apples are soft. Stir occasionally.
4.  Take off heat and allow to cool.

How to make the crumble:
1.  Mix flour, powdered milk and sugar together in a bowl.
2.  Cut softened butter into little cubes and put it into the bowl too.
3.  Rub the butter into the dry ingredients using the tips of your fingers until the mixture
     resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Then ...

Grease a mid-size oven proof dish. Spread stewed apples evenly over the base of the dish. Spread the crumble mixture over the top of the stewed apple. Bake in a moderate oven until golden brown. Mmm....

Sometimes, I add finely chopped walnuts to the crumble mix or coconut. You can add sultanas to the stewed apple if you wish too. However you make it though, I hope it warms your tummy and your heart on a cold Winter's night.