Saturday, 8 December 2018

Where I'll Be

It's a cloudy, overcast morning here so my view, out to the East's horizon, is obscured. A sliver of sea and our glimpse of today's destination, our beloved Straddie island, waits behind that cloudy cloak. By late afternoon, we'll be there.



Where I'll be is not that far away from home but it is a world away from city life, from work and school routines and from bustling Christmas crowds. We'll while away our time surrounded by Straddie's beauty and absorbed in her nature. The mainland will be far from my mind.

I'll catch up with you all again in a few weeks. Until then, I wish you many happy moments as your days unfold.

Meg












Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Chocolate-y Choc-Chip Cupcakes

Small chocolate-y choc chip cupcakes, made light and moist by a mixture including both sour cream and yoghurt, are a lovely semi-sweet treat.

Delicious treat!

I took this recipe, for Sour Cream Double Chocolate Muffins, and tweaked it just a little so I could use up a little bit of sour cream and a little bit of plain yoghurt I had in the fridge. As usual, I made them with spelt flour but you could always use plain flour. Here's how I made them:

Chocolate-y Choc-Chip Cupcakes
(Makes 12 small cupcakes)

Dry Ingredients:                                                                           Wet Mix:
3/4 cup white spelt flour                                                              1/2 cup sour cream                
1/4 cup cocoa powder                                                                   1/4 cup plain yoghurt
1/4 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar                                      1 small egg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder                                                       30g melted butter
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda                                                             1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 180C and prepare pan by lining with cupcake cases.

2.  Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until well combined with no lumps.

3.  Blend wet mix ingredients together in a large measuring jug or bowl.

4.  Make a well in centre of dry ingredients and pour wet mixture in. 

5.  Mix together until just combined.

6.  Half fill each of your cupcake cases with batter.

7.  Bake 15-20mins until cupcakes have risen and are springy to touch.

8.  Cool in pan for a few minutes before finishing cooling on a wire rack.

Silicone cupcake cases.

You can use paper or silicone cupcake cases to line your pan. I tend to use my set of individual silicone cases when I know the cupcakes I'm making are going to be quite moist or I want a little fluted cupcake shape. 

While not overly sweet, these little cupcakes are very chocolate-y indeed! Pop one into a lunchbox or on your afternoon tea plate for a little burst of chocolate-y choc-chip goodness in your day!

Meg



Friday, 30 November 2018

Frugal on Friday

With Christmas fast approaching, it can be easy for money to flow out faster than usual. My strategy has been to minimise the expense of this festive season by making many of the gifts we will give to our loved ones, teachers and neighbours. Little gift tags have been made from scrap paper and old Xmas cards. Gifts that need to be sent to family far away are ready to send and I will post these in the first week of December to avoid paying express post costs which can be very expensive. (I have not always been this well organised!!) I have been planning what we will have for Christmas lunch and simple homemade salads, cold roasted chicken and a delicious dessert will be shared around our old wooden table.  

There is too all the little things that we do, that regularly save us a few $ here and there. We don't stop doing these things just because the "silly season" is upon us. I really think it is these small things, done often, that keep more money in our pockets. Here's a few frugal things from the past week:

Meat Free Meals
It has been very hot of late so we have mostly been having salads with quiche or cold meats.  Though, on a cooler evening, I made a meat-free meal to use up a tub of ricotta (close to its use by date) and the remnants of a few veg - a sweet potato, a piece of pumpkin, a chunk of zucchini and one lone carrot. Drizzled with olive oil and roasted, it is just delicious!

 Baked ricotta and roast vegetables.
(Ready to go into the oven.)

No Waste
I bought a tray of 20 mangoes from a little local shop. When I calculated the cost, per mango, it worked out cheaper than buying them singly at a local supermarket. So none of these gorgeous ripe fruits were wasted, I peeled, sliced and then froze most of them for smoothies and desserts to enjoy during Summer. The peel was composted.

Delicious mangoes ~ peeled, sliced & frozen.

I also discovered an open packet of Mountain Bread in our freezer. Just a few thin sheets but they had split and broken under the weight of what had been stacked on top of them! So, I defrosted them, finished the process of breaking them in to bits, and then baked them until dry and crispy. Now we have a container of yummy bread chips to dip into the half bottle of salsa in the fridge.

Bread chips
(Made from Mountain Bread I found in the freezer.)

Handmade Gifts
I have continued making small and simple handmade gifts to give for Christmas. I am on a roll with these tea towel tote bags:D  The bag below was made from a touristy tea towel I found in my favourite little antique shop, it cost me $8 which is more than I would normally pay, but I was after something very specific for a beautiful lady who is a proud New Zealander.

A  tote I made from an op-shop tea towel.
(I love the flax linen!)

Op-Shopping
Next year, I will return to permanent, part-time work. Rather than spend lots of money on new work clothes, I have been sewing my own and rummaging through op-shop piles. This flow-y, versatile top cost just $3. It just needs a good iron!

A dressy new-to-me work top.
(Bargain!)

I love reading about what others do on the frugal front. I get so many ideas about different ways to save money. Have you done anything particularly frugal this week that you can share?

Meg

Monday, 26 November 2018

Little Lazy Apple Pancakes

One lonely Granny Smith apple, half a pot of forgotten plain yoghurt and a rumble-y tummy on a Sunday morning, wanting something different to our mostly usual omelette and toast, inspired what turned out to be, as I am calling them, Lazy Apple Pancakes. Not quite an Apple Dutch Baby, but delicious all the same!

Perfect for Sunday morning breakfast.

Lazy Apple Pancakes

1/2 cup white spelt flour
1/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 small eggs
1/4 cup natural plain yoghurt
1/4 cup milk
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cored and thinly sliced into rounds
2 Tablespoons brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon mixed together
butter, for frying
maple syrup (*to serve*)


1.   Sift flours and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.

2.   Whisk eggs, yoghurt and milk together in a measuring jug.

3.   Make well in centre of flours and pour in egg mixture.

4.   Mix until combined and there are no lumps in the batter. Try not to overmix!

5.   Heat skillet or frying pan over medium heat and melt a small knob of butter.

6.   Place large spoonfuls of batter into warmed skillet. (Don't overcrowd your pan.)

7.   Peek under each cooking pancake and ... 

8.   ... gently place an apple round on top when the bottom of the pancake becomes firm and             before bubbles appear on top.  

9.  Sprinkle each apple slice with brown sugar and cinnamon mix. Continue cooking and ...

Flip and cook the apple on the other side.

10.  ...  Flip pancakes when little bubbles appear on surface, around edge of the apple slice.

11.  Cook, apple-side down, until apple softens, the brown sugar and cinnamon become 
       caramel-y and the pancake is firm and springy.

12.  Serve warm with a swirl of maple syrup or some extra dollops of a thick yoghurt.

The tartness of the Granny Smith apple works well with the sweetness of caramel-y brown sugar and maple syrup too. Not quite an Apple Dutch Baby but perfect for a lazy Sunday morning breakfast all the same.

Meg



















Wednesday, 21 November 2018

The Little Red Wheelbarrow

I have potted up a small succulent garden in the little red wheelbarrow my once-small boy would push happily around full of mulch, soil, weeds and the occasional worm. The memory of him, hands in his tiny gardening gloves, pushing his little barrow around our lawn and from garden bed to garden bed, "helping", warms my heart so. Spending time outside together, in our garden, was a favourite part of our days at home together.

 A succulent garden in a child's wheelbarrow.

As it holds such lovely memories, I kept his little red barrow. I have grown flowers in it previously but recently decided I wanted to make a little feature of it, up in the new garden bed we've been creating where our son's old sandpit used to be. So, with extra drainage holes drilled into the bottom, some potting mix with a little leftover sandpit sand mixed in, and some small succulents gifted to me by a good friend, I planted it up.

Gifted succulents potted up  in the wheelbarrow.

One of the succulents has a pretty flower spike. I love the red in the buds as it matches the red of the wheelbarrow. A couple of the other succulents have tinges of red and pink too which I think, once they grow and fill up the space, will look lovely with the fire-engine red of the wheelbarrow.


Flower buds on one of the succulents.


While he has apparently "lost" his enthusiasm for gardening, in favour of hitting cricket balls and kicking footballs, I still point out things of interest in the garden to my boy. A certain plant flowering or going to seed, the scent of an open bud or a herb, a bird splashing in the birdbath or another creature making its home here. While he may not push his little red wheelbarrow anymore, I know the time I spent with him in the garden planted much within him. 

A little red wheelbarrow that holds succulents as well as memories. I am very glad I kept it and that I will see it often in the garden. 

What memories have you got planted in your garden?

Meg




Saturday, 17 November 2018

Here & Now 25

In these last weeks of November, we are counting down days here. Days that will take my son to the end of his primary schooling journey, that will see us make the last of the long drives up and down the highway to the little school, with the alternative educational philosophy, that we love. Days that will see us packing for our much-anticipated family holiday on our beloved Straddie island. November will merge with December soon, and those days will see us looking forward to the Christmas the come. Now though, in this November, it is a time to remember and to celebrate the journey a once-small boy has made through his primary years before we look forward to a new beginning ... 

White Yarrow and little orange Zinnias.

Spring onion seeds collected from our garden.

A tea towel tote bag of vibrant wildflowers.

Healthy & delicious quinoa salad.

A pale yellow nasturtium blooms in my own garden now.


Loving //         Warm November days that are not too hot!

Eating //         Healthy quinoa salads with roasted carrots, asparagus and cranberries. So good!

Drinking //    Two glasses a day of a green drink to support my body's healing and to help bring it
                             back into balance.
                           
Feeling //        Proud of my beautiful boy and nostalgic too as I remember the small fellow he once 
                             was.

Making //       Lots of little handmade things to gift for Christmas.      

Thinking //    I would like to make a knitted star, like the ones in Sarah's garland.

Dreaming //  Of my feet touching the familiar sands of Straddie again.



These are our Novembers days. Others have joined in with Sarah, over at her gorgeous blog Say, Little Hen, to share some of their Novembers too. It's well worth visiting such loveliness.

May your November days be happy ones.
Meg

Friday, 16 November 2018

A Tea Towel Tote

A while ago, I found a never-been-used touristy tea towel, a linen one printed with brightly coloured Australian wildflowers, in amongst other op-shop treasures. I bought it for a couple of dollars and tucked it away, sure that the bold, distinctive flowers could be made into a pretty feature on something new. 

A tote bag made from a touristy tea towel. 

That something new turned out to be a tote bag. Following along with this  YouTube tutorial, I folded, cut and re-purposed this tea towel into a pretty tote bag in about an hour. A simple and inexpensive project which will now be a Christmas gift for my Mum. (She doesn't read my blog so my secret is safe with all of you!)

Each step is easy to follow and there's no difficult sewing involved. The most important thing is to begin with a large tea towel made from a fabric that will have some strength when you pack it up in its new life as a bag. The linen of my tea towel was closely woven so it has sewn up into a sturdy bag.  

Begin with a tea towel.
(A large, linen tea towel is ideal.)

Handles cut from the tea towel.
(No waste of fabric at all!) 

Hems at the top of the bag
& handles attached! 

French seams for neatness & strength.

One important thing to realise, when choosing a tea towel from which to make this tote bag, is that the image on the back of your bag may be upside down if it is a directional print. I decided this didn't really matter with these flowers, they are just as pretty upside down!

The back of the tote bag.

 The front of the tote bag.

I think totes like these are a lovely way to make something useful from a tea towel that may otherwise languish in a kitchen drawer or op-shop basket.  I can imagine my Mum, her wildflower tote swung over her arm, on her way to borrow a book or two from her little local library in town. I may have to forgive her for thinking I have a thing for touristy tea towels though. I made her this touristy tea towel cushion cover for her birthday!

Meg




Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Little Makes of Late

Lately, I've been crafting little things. Embroidering small motifs on tiny cotton bags, stitching felt brooches that give new life to snippets of op-shop doilies, making drawstring project bags and sewing tea towels into tote bags.


A tote bag made from an op-shop tea towel.
(I 💗 the bold Australian flowers!)

While I've been forced to 'downsize' my crafty project plans, thanks to bursitis in my right shoulder, I am actually enjoying the quick results and satisfaction that simple, short projects can bring. Many of these little makes will be gifted come Christmas time. From my hands into another's ...

A drawstring project bag made with linen I covered in 'olive twigs'.
(Bag pattern from Melissa Wastney's book, "Sweet and Simple Handmade".

Tiny cotton bags with embroidered motifs.
(Motifs by Melissa Wastney & Charlotte Lyon.)

A little felt brooch became a gift for a very generous lady.
(Thank you, Maria, for your gorgeous linens!)

These little makes mean some bigger projects ...  a knitted shawl, a linen dress, a larger leafy applique and a few more besides ... are waiting idly for me to get back to them. Soon, I hope! 

What crafty projects, little or big, are you working on right now?

Meg


Monday, 12 November 2018

Tiny Owls Craft

Tiny owls, painted and drawn onto the smooth surface of tumbled river pebbles, make for such a sweet handmade gift. Something from one childhood friend to another, from a little one to their treasured grown-up or for oneself to place in a little "nest" where such an owl would  be comfy. 

My tiny owl.

My dear friend, Lucy, of the blog Follow That Childgave me two such tiny owls. One is wide awake and the other is dozing quietly. Lucy is the most resourceful and creative person I know! I get so many good ideas from her and so it was with her owls.

Lucy's owls.

These little bird friends can be sleepy daytime owls or wide-awake night owls. They can be painted with acrylic paints or drawn with permanent markers or a combination of the two. When considering how I would offer this sweet craft to a class of young children, I followed the simple process I found over at Red Ted Art. The surface of each pebble is given a coat of acrylic white paint and, once dry, a myriad of coloured permanent pens are used to add the owl-y details.  

They really are very easy to make! I sourced some smooth river pebbles from my local landscape supplier. I washed them and let them dry before giving just one side a coat of a good quality acrylic white paint. (Leaving one side unpainted allows a child to see the surface and markings of the original rock underneath.) I chose a paint which would give a good even coverage without the need for a second coat.  I then used permanent marker pens to draw on the details once the paint was dry. I recommend leaving them overnight as I found the paint can be a bit 'tacky' even if it is dry to the touch soon after being applied. Then comes the fun of drawing the eyes, beaks, wings, feathers, eyebrows and even eyelashes which bring a unique little owl character to life.

Three owl friends.

There's something calming about the weight of these little owls when they rest in the palm of your hand; the coolness of the stone pebbles that form their little owl bodies and their sweet bird faces that gaze up at you. 

I think they are adorable!
Meg



Thursday, 8 November 2018

Gardenias that Grace My Garden

At the bottom of our front stairs, planted in a little hedge around our timber retaining wall, are these gorgeous Gardenias. Their creamy white beauty and heady fragrance is sublime. I love to pause on our  bottom step and just breathe in their perfume!

I thought I'd share a little of their beauty with you on this ordinary, everyday Thursday. I'm not sure it can be an ordinary day though when one has flowers like Gardenias adding such grace to a garden. 

Perfection!

 The first petals unfold.

 Opening!

I hope you have some time today to stop and smell the roses  gardenias!

Meg xx


Monday, 5 November 2018

An Evening Filled with Music

On the balmy Saturday evening just passed, my beautiful boy and I enjoyed an evening of wonderful music. Works by the composer Franz Schubert, with a little Brahms too, filled the beautifully restored Sandgate Town Hall with music and our hearts with joy.


 The piano from which the music plays.

The evening's program. 

Just as he did the last time we saw him, when he played Gerschwin in this hall, the amazing Australian pianist,  Simon Tedeschi, enchanted us again with music and with his incredible talent. Tedeschi first played at the Sydney Opera House when he was 9years old; his hands played those of the young David Helfgott, whom we saw perform here too, in the movie, Shine. I love that he shares something of the composer, and the music when he introduces the pieces he will play, for those pieces and those who imagined them, all have their stories.

 The town hall lit up at night.

 The hall's historic clock tower.

 Fairy lights twinkling in the trees.

The pattern on the hall's beautiful ceiling. 

The lights that hang from the ceiling. 

The old timber and iron seats of the mezzanine where we sit.

We have been to a handful of these concerts now and we make it a special night out. We dress up a little, drive up together and walk arm in arm, along paths lit by twinkling fairy lights in the trees, to the town hall. We sit up on the mezzanine, on the old timber and iron seats, and look out across the expanse of the floor below to the stage. We listen in rapt silence and our clapping joins the enthusiastic applause for the playing and for the music. It's music we love.

You can enjoy a little of Simon Tedeschi's playing piano here, as there is a choice of videos on his website, or listen to a little of Schubert at this YouTube link.  

I always find it hard to describe what I love so much about classical music. It's the mountains and the valleys of pieces, how it describes such a range of emotions from glorious love and elation to the depths of desolate despair and melancholy. And how that's so open to the interpretation of the one who is listening.  I love to close my eyes and just listen. It's a joy my son and I share and I hope he'll long remember our evenings filled with music.

Meg














Saturday, 3 November 2018

Divine Daylily

Coming into bloom in my garden now is a divine Daylily;  gently ruffled petals of the softest peachy-pink, and with a single white stripe, surround its yellow centre. I think it's exquisite!

Beautiful Daylily.

As its name alludes to, the Daylily's open blooms only last for one single day but their fleeting beauty reminds me to appreciate and enjoy them as they flower. 

The promise of a gorgeous flower. 

Tightly closed buds.

One beautiful bloom opens. 

I began with just one of these beautiful Daylilies; a gift from my mother-in-law from her garden to mine. I divided that clump when it was ready and now, through propogation, have even more of this particular Daylily, which I think might be Across the Galaxy, growing in my garden. All this beauty for free!

Daylilies are easy to grow and care for. They are hardy and drought tolerant too. You can even eat the flowers! Best of all though, they come in a huge variety of gorgeous colours. (The Mountain View Daylily Nursery website has some beautiful photos of different Daylilies in their online catalogue.)  I would love to grow a rainbow of them!

Hmm ... perhaps I will ask for a new Daylily variety in my Christmas stocking this year. 

Meg

p.s. I am not affiliated with The Mountain View Daylily Nursery in any way. It is a nursery not far from where I live, at Maleny in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. So, if I were to source a new Daylily, this is where I'd consider buying it from as it's the most local to me.





Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Little Potato & Haloumi Cakes

Anything made with chewy, salty haloumi cheese, has me hooked before the first mouthful. So it was with these little potato cakes. 

Delicious!

The recipe comes from The Art of Nourishing, by Therese Steelewhich is one of my favourite cookbooks. Therese is a local woman who sought better health for her family through food and other changes to reduce or eliminate chemicals we can all be surrounded by in our modern lives and homes. There are so many delicious, healthy and gluten-free recipes in this cookbook as well as many tips for reducing chemicals in our daily lives. 

This is a very simple recipe really. I have omitted the salt from the recipe because I find haloumi to be salty enough on its own.  I also used olive oil instead of the grapeseed oil from the recipe. (I don't have grapeseed oil.)  Here's how I made them:


Little Potato & Haloumi Cakes

4 large waxy potatoes (A variety like Desiree is a good choice.)
100g haloumi cheese
2 large eggs
paprika & pepper
parsley *optional*
olive oil

1.  Coarsely grate the peeled potatoes on top of a clean tea towel. Bunch up the tea towel around the grated potato and use it to squeeze out as much moisture from the grated potato as possible.  Place grated potato in a mixing bowl.

2.  Coarsely grate the haloumi cheese and add it to the grated potato.

3.  Beat the eggs and add to the potato and haloumi mixture. *Add chopped parsely if using.*

4.  Season mixture with a generous grind of pepper and a sprinkling of paprika.

5.  Cover the base of your frying pan with olive oil and bring up to a medium heat.

6. Place little spoonfuls of potato and haloumi mixture into frying pan and even out thickness with the back of a spoon.

7.  Fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove from frying pan and sit on a piece of kitchen towel to soak up excess oil. 

8. Serve with a scrumptious chutney or chunky sauce and a generous side salad.  

Yum!  These little potato and haloumi cakes are so moreish that I don't recommend you make them all the time. While infinitely healthier than, say a hash brown cooked in palm oil at your local takeaway, eating batch after batch of them might still be overload. Once in a while though ... 

Meg

p.s. This is a rosti recipe I am very keen to try. Jamie Oliver's Giant Veg Rosti sounds amazing and full of goodness.