7 March 2016

Here and there and everywhere

I took us to the beach for a day trip, on what I thought might be the last really hot day of the season.  It was really hot, but it wasn't the last one. The water at this time of year though it incredible, after heating up for the past few months, it's at it's warmest right now. Best time for a dip. It doesn't look so hot from the image, but that cloud burned off and it was hot. Real hot.

I'm making a big effort this week to slow down, do less, be more. Not that I don't always anyway, but the past few weeks and last week in particular have just seen me running, literally running, to get here and there. If you saw a lady running through Southern Cross station last week it was probably me. Ok it probably wasn't as I probably wasn't the only one. But you get my drift. Too much has been going on and the only one who can change that is - me!

Having said all that, sometimes life just picks you up and moves you along, or moves you up, or things just start to happen. So there's always a positive and my whirlwind of activity has been positive shifts, so no complaints. I just need a breather.

I'm ready now to fully welcome the autumn weather but Mother Nature seems to have other ideas, it's been hotter here this past week than it was for the bulk of summertime. The zucchini's are enjoying the last blast of heat and I'm glad I didn't pull them out already. It's a job for us very soon, clearing out the vegie garden, adding some horse manure and compost (compost - my compost is the best I've ever had, it's a hot little bin I've got going and it's breaking down in record time!) and getting some cooler season vegies growing. I'm contemplating some espaliered apple trees along the back fence, there's so little space for growing fruit and vegies (comparatively speaking) here in this garden. Then I come back to my question of how long to stay, and - oooh I don't really want to go round in that circle right now. My restlessness to move on has eased for now and I'm just enjoying being here. It's a good (head)space to be in.

And whilst I've not been writing here so much, I've been doing some writing for other blogs and I'd love for you to take a read. The very lovely Judit from The Hands On Project asked me to write a series of posts on the winter season (one of my favourite times of the year) and my first post in the series is now up on her blog here. And the also very lovely Cat from Chronicles of Cat interviewed me about crystal healing, and specifically about using crystals to heal a broken heart which you can read here. I love how she has pulled it all together. And I enjoyed so much the writing for both of those.

Ooh and the biggest find from the last few weeks of my life - baked almond pulp brownies. I started making my own almond milk (here) and with that comes an abundance of almond pulp. Which is fantastic added to our morning millet porridge, and to our banana and date loaf, and to muffins. But I have to say, nothing beats brownies as a way to use up the almond pulp. I've been making a vegan version of the recipe linked above (I've been officially vegan since 1 January) which is just divine.

So that's me, until next time...

25 February 2016

4 Tips to Give Furniture a Rustic Look (or, that time I painted a table)

It's been since forever that I last did a guest post in this space, but a little while ago I was contacted by Chris Stanbridge who writes for Cristophe Living about doing this post on giving furniture a rustic look. And at first, I didn't think that would be such a great fit for my blog, but then the little voice in the back of my head whispered 'wait... you have a table that needs painting...' and I figured that this might be just the kick up the backside I needed to make it happen. And it was, and it did. Here's Chris' article to help you if you want to try it!

*  *  *  *  *

4 Tips to Give Furniture a Rustic Look 
Vintage furniture is back, so it is time to visit your grand parents' attic to find a few hidden gems. Many of you might have pieces of furniture that need a little touch in order to look perfect. Here are four tips that can help you in the process.

1. Distressing
You would initially have to start with distressing your furniture. This means you would have to scrape off any old paint that is currently on the piece. You can either use an electric sander or sandpaper to wipe off the paint. You might be required to use a chemical cleaner if the paint is applied quite thickly. Once you are done with the cleaning part, dry the furniture using a rag to remove any dirt that is left.
My table didn't need much extra distressing.

2. Painting
The next step is to paint the furniture in a manner such that an anti dilutive look is achieved. Do remember that rustic furniture does not have heavy coats of paint and therefore you must dilute the paint. You can choose any kind of paint such as oil based paints or water based paints. Apply the paint by using a rag or brush although a rag results in better effects. Once the first layer is applied allow it to dry off and then apply the second layer. You can add more layers if you want to but do remember that rustic furniture is all about less paint and have a more worn out look. In case you have applied more paint than you want, you can use a sandpaper to wipe off the excess paint. You can also apply opaque colour paint directly and then wipe it off the cloth immediately after applying. This way any excess paint would be removed immediately and you would need to spend less effort and time.

3. Drying
Although this might seem quite obvious, this is nevertheless an important step. If you do not allow the paint to dry off and move to the next step, all your effort would not be realised as the furniture would fail to achieve the desired look. You need to make sure that the furniture item is allowed to dry off in a ventilated area, away from people or pets who might ruin the paint job. 

4. Sealing
Once the paint has dried off, you would now need to seal it with satin polyurethane that would act as a sealant and protect the furniture. However, do not apply the sealer with a rag but rather with a brush to ensure smooth application.
A rustic white table - do you think?

The simple process of whitewashing can allow you to bring a rustic charm to the interior of your room. The process is quite simple and does not require a person to master any specific technique and therefore is a must do it yourself project.

Chris is an experienced interior designer and craftsman. Chris regularly writes for Christophe Living. Over the last 4 years, Chris has written numerous articles and is an active forum contributor.

*  *  *  *  *

I'm not sure that my painted table achieved quite the 'vintage' look, and to be honest it was probably more rustic before I painted it (it is made from recycled timber, electricity poles I think). But, for the purpose that I wanted it is great. Having it white brightens up the dull light in the lounge room, and it has given me the white background I have been wanting just for taking photos on (without building a separate photo board). So I'm happy. I'm now looking at those bedside tables desperately in need of some updating... I would also add that I am totally not a DIY person (I'm like a fish out of water in the inside part of any hardware store, I'm more at home in the plants section). But it was very satisfying to do this little job and if I can do it, anyone can do it.

12 February 2016

Simple Things: Homemade Almond Milk

I stopped drinking cow's milk some time ago now, long before any thoughts of a vegan diet were seriously floating around in my head. My body just started telling me, very clearly, that cow milk was not good for me. Noticeable tummy pains after I drank anything with it, and a growing icky feeling at the thought of using it. And it wasn't even the first time that had happened, I had gone off it previously but ended up drinking it again, for convenience I suppose.

So I have tried plenty of alternatives to the standard cow milk that are available. I'm not so keen on soy milk, rice milk seems to me to be water with a hint of white and almond milk was definitely the best option for me but again, watery and loaded with additives. And then when I got my hands on the My Darling Lemon Thyme cookbook, I read the recipe for almond milk and just knew I had to try making my own. But that was quite a few months ago now, and I have to admit that complacency had set in and I was stuck on supermarket almond milk. This despite having a nut milk bag and nuts in the cupboard. And a blender.

Anyway as happens with these things, necessity is what forced the change. After a big day out, a late afternoon at home, scrambling to get dinner sorted, a tired and cranky toddler, a tired and cranky me, no almond milk in the house and knowing that I would be needing the milk in the morning, that's what finally drove me to do it. And goodness me, it was so ridiculously easy I don't know what I was procrastinating about all that time. That's often how it goes, right?

It was incredibly easy - just soaking a cup of almonds in water overnight, draining it off in the morning and blending it up with another 3 cups of fresh water in the blender, then squeezing it through the nut milk bag and into a jug. Pretty easy. But the part that I love the most is how amazingly good the milk was (is). So creamy! So fulfilling! So satisfying! It made our rice porridge so incredibly smooth and creamy, and my chai tea was all kinds of good, and my sometimes evening treat of a small cacao drink is now the creamy smooth drink I was dreaming of - just no comparison any commercial nut milk. And even the added bonus of all the almond pulp for adding to our porridge and in our baking.

Of all the changes I have made over the years to increase my self reliance and reduce my reliance on supermarket chains, this is a big one for me. I've always found the homemade products to be superior to the commercial product, but the extent of the difference between homemade almond milk to commercial almond milk is just - huge. I don't know how else to say it.

I've been looking and looking for a milk this good for so long, and all that time, I just needed to devote about 10 minutes to the process and I could have done it myself. And now I know. I can't tell you how much I enjoy drinking it, it feels so decadent and now it's become my new normal. And on the cost side of things, I did crunch the numbers a little while back as I thought it would be hugely expensive using all those almonds, but I worked out that over a week, it would cost me about the same to make my own as to buy a commercial product. Plus, the bonus of spending less on buying almond meal for baking is a big factor for me, as I bake gluten free and almond meal features in pretty much everything I make.

Do I sound like I'm raving on about how good it is? I am! It is that good!

Have you ever tried making any nut milks or any other kind of milks at home? What was your experience with it? I'd love to hear.

29 January 2016

Favourite Thing

My kiddo is very much into trains. I've been promising to take him on a train for months now; since we moved to this little city, we've driven past the train station almost every time we go in the car, just to see if there's any trains. We've pedalled past, and doubled back to wait for trains to come when we hear the signals go. We've watched on foot as trains have rumbled past the train playground. And then we finally went on a train.

It's the most wonderful thing, watching your child step out of their comfort zone and grow, become more worldly, bigger, braver. We arrived at the station and got a special ticket - special because the trains were running free and we didn't need it, but the lovely fellow in the office realised the nature of our trip and knew how special a ticket can be, for an almost three year old. A thing to have, in his hands, that he can take home and remember his train trip by. We waited on the platform with anticipation, and as the train rumbled in, people started to flock forward to get on, my beautiful kiddo hit his wall. It's one thing to watch the trains go by from a distance, another entirely get on the train. So I bundled him up, kicking and screaming, and on we got.

The tantrum lasted about 30 seconds (thankfully) and we found a seat by the window. He was cuddled up to me like a koala as we started to move off, but within 5 minutes I had been kicked off the seat and took my place next to him. And he had grown up, a little bit more, in that short space of time.

We didn't go far. Twenty minutes later we hopped off at a little town, waved goodbye to the train as it continued on its journey, and wandered into town to find a playground and some lunch. Had I been more organised I would have packed a picnic lunch for us, but I was not, and a cafe lunch has become a bit of a rare treat for us now.  So we found a sweet little place, just perfect really, and enjoyed a simple and lovely lunch together. He charmed everyone at the cafe and then we wandered our way back to the station, to wait for the homeward bound train.

And of course this time on the train, he was a seasoned traveller, taking it all in his stride, confident and comfortable, over-confident and boisterous.

Days like this remind me just how fleeting it all is, being a parent. Watching a little person grow in front of your eyes, it's so easy to miss the changes, the growing up, all the little things. When we chatted at dinner about our favourite part of the day, we both said going on the train was our favourite thing. In truth every part of the day was my favourite thing. I'll be dragging him back to do it again soon, I think.

26 January 2016

Talking About Food

Food is a pretty huge thing, really, isn't it? When I think about how much goes into growing food in the garden, how much I can actually produce for us, how much I can rely on that as opposed to buying food... I'm a long way from where I'd like to be, that much I know. I get a good summer season of tomatoes, but I'm not even close to growing enough (and processing enough) to see us through the winter. Same goes with potatoes, although I'm closer with potatoes than with tomatoes. I think last year we were eating homegrown well into late Autumn. And as much as I would like it to be otherwise, my winter vegie gardening has been inconsistent at best. I would like to change that.

But the fact for me is, the vast majority of the food we eat in this house still comes from a supermarket, or from a store somewhere. I am tending now to shop more in smaller, independent stores rather than the big supermarkets whenever I can, mostly for dried pulses, fruits and vegetables and some household items where I can get them. But I still find myself back at the big supermarkets often enough. I suppose the driving factors for me are the freshness of the food, and whether or not it is organic. And how much it costs, that factor is still pretty important, especially when comparing the organic to the non-organic.

I flat out refuse to buy fruits and vegetables that are imported (ok, with the odd exception being garlic from Mexico when I'm desperate for garlic). It's not that I don't think the produce is good enough; of course it is, for what it is. It's just that I want to buy food that has had less time in storage, that has travelled less distance, that is fresher and healthier. I want to eat food that is in season, in our seasons. The early appearance of grapes and watermelons from the US is a big one - explaining to my kiddo why we can't buy it yet when we pass them at the supermarket. And I want my food to be free of pesticides, or genetic modifications. I want to eat food that was grown naturally in healthy soils, as close to home as possible. Obviously some things have to come from far away - coconuts and bananas don't grow so well around here. So I suppose the choice then is, to eat those things or not to eat those things. I'm still eating those things.

The reality is that everything is energy, you know? And the best energy, the highest vibrating energy with the most life force, comes from fresh, organic produce. And what we eat, what we take into our body, has a huge impact on our own energy! Our own vibration, our own life force. So when we consume foods that are on the lower end of the scale (manufactured anything), we are lowering our own energy, we are reducing our own life force energy (Chi, or Qi). Think about pesticides, they are designed to destroy life. That's a pretty low energy to be taking into our bodies. And that has a pretty big impact on our life. It impacts on how well we function, how positive or negative we are, our physical health, our ability to make positive change in our lives, our ability to operate at our highest potential, our energy levels, our overall wellbeing.

It is costly to shift to organic produce, I'm walking that tricky line between balancing the food budget and giving us the best food, and I would love to say we eat all organic but it's just not true. Still, making small changes here and there, they all add up. I do believe the small changes are the important ones, day in and day out. Little things, like organic tea (or coffee). Cutting out processed drinks. My last stand, my last guilty pleasure, is the hot chocolate that I like to have. Since I stopped drinking coffee it's become a little more prominent, but still I notice every single time that I get a little stomach pain when I drink it. My body speaks to me, tells me what it needs and what it doesn't, and the more I cut out the things that are no good, the louder I can hear it. Sensitivity increases, when you take away the things that dull it.

It's something I'm focusing on more this year, even more than usual. Starting with buying a local organic vegie box from a local farm, and I'll just see how we go with it. Little changes, big changes, all positive changes; always has a positive effect on your life.