Monday, 30 July 2018

First Succulent Pot

For a  long while, I had resisted the appeal of growing succulents ... until I saw the amazing  amazing array of succulent pots that Joolz has at her place. Then I just had to grow a succulent pot of my own. 

My first succulent pot.

My first succulent pot cost me next to nothing to get growing. My neighbour kindly gave me a few succulent leaves to propagate from one of her plants and I re-used a little blue glazed pot I already had. I simply filled it with a bit of potting mix, that I added just a bit of sand to, and then pushed the succulent leaves down into that mix.  A bit of water and a sunny spot on the verandah and tiny "pups" grew.  After the pups sprang up, I found some little rocks to fill in around them and added an old lizard ornament. That poor lizard is missing one leg but you'd never know now!  

I  💚 my first succulent pot and am keen to grow a few more out on my verandah. It's quite the addictive thing! I'd like to find and reuse some unusual containers, maybe even an old teapot. Here are some ideas I've found:

(Scroll down past the succulent garden tutorial.)

Seeing as teapots are scarce around here (we are not tea drinkers) I think I will rummage around and find that old colander my son used to play with in his paddle pool. About time it was given new life as a succulent pot!

Do you grow succulents? What do you grow them in?


p.s. I think little succulent gardens would make lovely gifts too. 😊

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Choc Hazelnut Crumble Slice

A nutty chocolate filling, sandwiched between two oat-y biscuit layers, makes for a lovely homemade morning or afternoon tea slice. It's quite the treat!

 Squares of scrumptious slice.

The recipe is just a chocolate-y version of our favourite Lovely Lemon Slice.  Rather than a luscious lemon curd filling, I spread a generous layer of a choc-hazelnut spread. This is how I made it:

Choc Hazelnut Crumble Slice
(Not suitable for those with nut allergy.)

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


1/2 cup of chocolate-y hazelnut spread   (I used Pure Harvest's Coco 2 Hazelnut Spread.)

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.

8. Spread choc-hazelnut spread evenly over base of the slice.

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

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

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

A homemade treat.

The next time I make this scrumptious slice, I want to use a homemade choc-hazelnut spread.  You could use Nutella but, according to this review of its ingredients, more than half of that product is sugar and only 13% hazelnut.  While the Pure Harvest spread I used contained no cane sugar, and was far less sweet as it's primary ingredient is rice malt syrup, it only contains 10% hazelnut.  By making my own, I will be able to make a simple spread like this one, from the Living Healthy with Chocolate website, which is made from a base of hazelnut butter blended from ... just hazelnuts!

In a nutshell, that is for me one very big benefit of homemade versus shop bought. You know exactly what is in whatever you have cooked or made. You can experiment too with alternative ingredients and by adjusting quantities for ingredients like sugars and syrups, oils and fats, to arrive at healthier versions.


p.s. I am not affiliated in any way with Pure Harvest, the makers of the choc-hazelnut spread I used.  I just had a jar of it in the cupboard to use up.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Here & Now 23

Our Winter days here begin and end with glorious skies.  The sun-warmed sky of the early morning glowing with golden fire and the tell-tale dusky pink sky-ribbon that signals a cold night ahead. These days begin and end with extra layers, jumpers upon jumpers and thick socks within  slippers all encased in an extra blanket or two. As each day warms, as most do during our Winter, we peel off some of this extra warmth but enough remains to remind us that this is the coldest season of our year. 

 The gentle light of a fragrant candle.

Warm and nourishing porridge.

A warm blanket for an old friend.

Hearty Winter soup.

 The warming flames of a bonfire.

Now is a time of year I relish for its distinct difference to our Summers; those scorching days seem far away...

Loving //  The gentleness of beautiful Winter's light.

Eating //   Bowls of warming, nourishing soup.

Drinking //  Pepperminty hot chocolates just so I can wrap my hands around the mug!

Feeling //  Toasty in all my Winter layers.

Making //  Time for sewing little things like this sweet tea towel bag.

Thinking //  A fire pit in my backyard would be lovely!
Dreaming //  ... of toasting jaffles and marshmallows in my imaginary fire pit!

Is it Winter or is it Summer where you live?  There are others posting their own Here & Now happenings over with Sarah at Say, Little Hen. You could visit with them awhile there or join in and share some of your season with us.


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

A Winter Salvia

Salvias have become one of my favourite perennial plants to grow here in our garden. There's many things about them which led to my fondness for them. First and foremost is that they grow well here, proving to be very hardy plants. They don't mind the heat of our Summer! They are easy to grow and to propagate too. Taking cuttings works well! Salvia flowers come in a range of often vibrant colours, reds and purples and pinks bloom in our garden and are much loved by the bees and me! 

 Such a pretty pink!

One of many flower spikes.

Most of the salvias in our garden are at their best in the warmer months of the year but there is one which only comes into bloom during the Winter here. I have to wait all year to see its flowers and so love and appreciate it for its seasonal display. It's planted out the front, just inside our front gate, and for most of the year it offers only its fragrant foliage which is quite spicy and distinctive. 

An emerging flower spike.

Tall flower spikes reaching for the sky.

When the weather becomes colder though, flower spikes begin to emerge, growing taller and taller until they open into the most vibrant of pinks. I see these striking flowers each and every time I go through the gate and I always think about the colour they add to a Winter's day.

What's adding colour to your day?


p.s. I am very unsure as to what salvia this is. I picked it up, as a very small plant, at a market and forgot to ask. I think it could be Salvia involucrata 'Timboon' from my brief internet search.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Stuffed Sweet Potato Boats

On a quiet night, where it was just me for dinner, I made myself some scrumptious stuffed sweet potatoes. Piping hot, cheesy and full of nutritious veg, they were so delicious!

 Simple and scrumptious!

I 💗 the flavour of roasted sweet potato and it is the roasted skins of this very versatile veg that form the hull of these scrumptious "boats". I just tossed a few in the oven and baked them until they were cooked through. Once they were cool enough, I halved them, split them lengthwise and scooped out the tender orange sweet potato inside. 

Bake and halve sweet potatoes. 

After that, I deviated from the original recipe a bit. Feeling lazy, I voted (there was only me so it was unanimous) not to saute onion and broccoli for the filling but to instead use up the leftover steamed veg from the night before. So, into the mashed sweet potato from the hollowed out "boats" went leftover cauliflower, peas and beans, a big blob of sour cream and a grind of pepper. All mixed together and it was ready to go back into the roasted sweet potato skins.

Refill the hollowed out sweet potato skins with generous scoops of filling.

Generous scoops of this lovely creamy vegetable mix filled up the hollowed out skins. All that was needed then was some grated mozzarella cheese. Then, back into the oven long enough for mozzarella to become all melt-y and stretchy. Yum!

Top with grated mozzarella cheese.

So simple and yummy! Not only are they full of healthy veg, they are quick to make once the sweet potatoes are baked. You could very easily bake a few sweet potatoes, if your oven is on earlier in the day cooking other things, ready for a quick dinner that evening. Served just as they are, or with a side salad, these stuffed sweet potato boats are a great meat-free Monday (or any other day) meal, a yummy way to use up leftovers and a pretty healthy option too.

Of course, because I was the only one for dinner, I got to eat them all up but you might have to make extras though if you have to share. I think they'd disappear quickly from the dinner table. They are so scrumptious!


p.s. I used sweet potatoes I grew in the garden here. No sprays! 

Friday, 6 July 2018

Simple Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding

Winter, the season for pudding! Warm and delicious and homemade pudding. A self-saucing pudding is one where the layers of the pudding, the cake and the sauce, separate as the pudding cooks. The cakey part rises to the top while the sauce thickens underneath. I just love that, while baking in the oven, an amazing alchemy happens that turns some simple, basic ingredients into something so sublime!

Chocolate cake on top and a sweet sauce underneath.

This simple recipe, from well-known chef and Masterchef judge, Matt Preston, is apparently based on one found in an old cookbook. It's an oldie but a goodie!  Here are the basic steps:

Sift dry ingredients. 
(In this recipe all of the flour and half each of the sugar and cocoa.) 

Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. 

Fold in gently to form chocolatey batter.

Sprinkle sugar and cocoa mix onto the top of the batter.

Pour boiling water carefully and gently over the top.
(I pour it very slowly over the back of a spoon.)

Bake in the oven.

Warm pudding and homemade ice-cream. Sublime!

A generous spoonful of chocolate self-saucing pudding, with its soft chocolate "cake" on top and its oozy chocolate sauce underneath, together with a dollop of fresh, thick cream or a scoop of vanilla ice-cream is just about as good as Winter gets. ❆

Have a lovely weekend.


p.s. Cheryl over at A Simply Good Life posted a recipe for a Lemony Self Saucing Pudding recently.  Such sweet temptations!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Tea Towel Drawstring Bag

A old and soft linen tea towel and a cross-stitched rosy doily, both costing just a few dollars each, have been re-purposed into a sweet little drawstring bag. 

A sweet bag made with re-purposed linens.

I had been wanting to sew a bag like this one ever since I came across Jude Van Heel's easy instructions in an issue of Grass Roots magazine (No. 244 Dec/Jan 2017/18). I found these beautiful linens quite a while ago and finally sewed them up in a project that took less than an hour to make. 💗

A vintage doily to decorate an old towel.

The colours in the rosy doily, the pinks and the browns and the greens, match in with the stripes of the tea towel so I think they go together quite well.  

Simple stitches sew the doily onto the tea towel.

Sewing the doily onto the tea towel was very easy. I used simple running stitches, sewing in and out of the little holes of the doily, all the way around until it was secure.  Then it was just a matter of sewing up one side and across the bottom of the folded tea towel to form the bag. A simple casing at the top, leaving room for a drawstring to run through it, and it was time for a ribbon. A lovely long blue satin ribbon, that came tied around a recent birthday gift, was perfect and so it was reused as the drawstring to finish off this sweet and simple project.

A satiny ribbon for a drawstring.

A tea towel drawstring bag like this could be used as a project bag, to hold a knitting or stitching project, or as an alternative to wrapping paper. Ours will be used to hold the gentle goat milk soaps we have collected to give to a special Grandma celebrating a birthday not far away.

What have you been making lately?


p.s.  You can visit Jude Van Heel, who lives in a sweet cottage in Tasmania, at Instagram:  @fairywrencottage

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

This Winter's Flowers

Winter time colour in the garden from the flowers that are blooming this cold weather season. I love the eye-catching red of the salvia and the vibrance of the violas dotted through the veggie patch. The hot pink of the geranium in its pot  is just as glorious. The delicate pale pink flowers, of the ground cover whose names escapes me, cover the ground around the little water tank. The penstemon is still flowering months after its first magenta blossoms opened. The broccoli, that never really amounted to much, is redeeming itself with its bright yellow flowers that signal it is going to seed. So much colour from this Winter's flowers. 







Our little native bees take flight now only when the day warms enough. The little entrance to their home is a "hive" of activity; a traffic jam of tiny bees flying in and out. 

Our tiny native bees.

A native bee about to land on a flower.

Our tiny native bees work industriously in among the winter flowers. Their favourites seems to be the broccoli and groundcover blooms. I am not sure I have favourites though, I love all of them. 

What's blossoming around you right now?


Sunday, 1 July 2018

Plastic Bag Ban?

A simple children's story,  A Bag and a Bird, from the amazingly talented author and illustrator, Pamela Allen, tells a tale of the potential danger that plastic bags pose to our environment and our wildlife. In her story, it's an ibis that gets tangled in one of these lightweight nightmares but it could just as easily have been a pelican or a turtle or any number of other sea creatures. In this story, all ends well but we all know that isn't so outside of the fictional world of children's picture books.

A simple story about a big problem.

The harm plastic does in our environment is, I think, widely known and commonly accepted. So today, when a ban on lightweight plastic bags comes in to force in the Australian state where I live, I found myself asking the question, "What took so long?" As with many things, the wheels of government turn much more slowly than if we just make a personal decision and act on it.  

A little flyer from our local shop.

While lightweight plastic bags, the kind you often (used to) see piled up in supermarket trolleys are now banned here, and in other the Australian states, there are still plastic bags to which the ban does not apply. Heavyweight plastic bags, thin plastic produce bags, bin liners and garbage bags are still going to be available from retailers in the state where I live. Like Cheryl, over at A Simply Good Life, I think that these "acceptable" plastics will just end up in landfill eventually. Why not ditch these plastic bags altogether? Here are the things we do at our place to avoid using plastic bags:

Instead of bringing home groceries in any kind of plastic bag, I have collected fabric bags, some made from organic cotton and some from reclaimed cottons. I 💚 that these can be used over and over again and that they can be washed if they get a bit grotty. I send them, shredded into small strips, to the compost bin when they are beyond repair.  Perhaps, you might be lucky enough to have Boomerang Bags operating in your community and will have that source of reusable bags to use. When I go to the market, I take my basket and a few fabric bags so that I don't bring home any plastic from there either.

A few of our plastic bag alternatives.

Instead of throwaway plastic produce bags, we have a set of little mesh and cotton drawstring bags. I bought mine from an ethical online store, when they were on sale, but they can be readily sewn up from mesh fabric or even old curtain material. Here's a tutorial and a pattern (scroll down through blog post to find it) for how to make them. 

My market basket.

One common question that seems to have been on people's minds, in the lead up to our plastic bag ban, has been, "What will we line our bin with now?" We don't line our little kitchen bin with anything anymore but Liz, over at Eight Acres, uses sheets of newspaper to line hers. We use sheets from the little local newspaper, that lands on our driveway every week, to wrap any "icky scraps" before putting them in the freezer. Now, we don't have many "icky scraps", because we compost our fruit and veg scraps and our dog takes care of most of our meat scraps, but I find that by wrapping and freezing what we do have to dispose of, there's no oozy, smelly stuff in our bin. A quick rinse out and it's ready to go back under the kitchen sink. I just have to remember to put any wrapped scraps in the wheelie bin on rubbish collection day.

Perhaps, remembering to bring along reusable bags when shopping will be one of the biggest challenges in the early days of this plastic bag ban. Having lightweight plastic bags, to plonk our purchases in, is something we've all gotten used to at the checkout. There was a time though when plastic bags did not exist, as hard as that may be to imagine given the way plastics are such an ever-present part of our lives now. That means though that we can get used to doing without them again too.  Perhaps, there will be a happy outcome, just as there is in the story of A Bag and a Bird.

Do you have a plastic bag ban in place where you live? What alternatives do you, or are you planning to, use?