Tag Archives: home made

Homespun gifts

So I love thinking of gifts! I try not to let the birthday ball drop just because Christmas is all over the place. I’m sure that you’ve been caught out buying someone a present because you just had to get them something and the “what” you got them took second place. I know I have. So for a friend’s birthday recently who loves natural skin care (we have actually covered our faces in green clay in the name of fun and skincare even though I came out in a rash) I wanted to get her something she would like:

  • A bamboo scrubber mitt
  • Coconut and brown sugar scrub
  • Oatmeal and honey soap
  • Rosewater spray

She assures me the coconut scrub left her face baby smooth. It’s so nice discovering your friends have yet another thing in common with you- reminds you why you’re destined to help each other bury bodies together one day. This isn’t really homemade but it’s homespun. Is that close enough?

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In a noodle box to look extra cute! (And maybe because all my wrapping paper has Christmas pictures on it).

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DIY Lavender Eye Pillows. Anyone could make them!

So I love making gifts.

If only my lavender plant still looked like this. Brown thumb!

If only my lavender plant still looked like this. Brown thumb!

I made several lavender eye pillows because I had lot of birthdays and found good quality loose lavender from Handmade Naturals on Gladstone Road in Highgate Hill.

I started by figuring out how big I wanted the pillows by using my own eye pillow (the purple one) to measure the size. You might recognise the fabric from my maxi skirt post.

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I made the first one by hand until Ben took pity on my and used the sewing machine to help me. I married the right man.

It’s as simple as it looks: folded the wrong way, sew two sides. Turn the right way out, fill with lavender, then fold edges in and sew last side (or hand sew using backstitch, which I did for the one you see above).

About five eye pillows (one super big one is not shown here) for less than half an hour's work. The blue ones have a plain blue fabric on the other side.

About five eye pillows (one super big one is not shown here) for less than half an hour’s work. The blue ones have a plain blue fabric on the other side.

One of the great things about this gift is that you can use up pretty fabric scraps you have, as you can see I did here. The black and white fabric was used for a skirt, the Morrocan white and blue is destined to be a table cloth.

I tied these up with a spray bottle of rosewater with a piece of raffia (and when I had run out, brown string) but of course these could be part of a much larger gift, or a simple “just because” gift. Ben has also made much larger versions of these using old denim and beans/rice as heat packs. These were the coziest things in winter (and lived inside our clothes and blankets!).

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Cute and easy. A great last-minute Christmas gift.

Do you make any gifts at Christmas? What sorts?

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Work It

So I made a maxi skirt the other day and discussed how I would wear it. But if I want to corporate it up, I would wear it like this. And I did.

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DIY Maxi Skirt- fun with prints

So I caught the DIY maxi skirt craze.

I really wanted some long, modest skirts I could wear to work (I don’t have to dress corporate) that didn’t cost the earth.

I found some beautiful fabric at Spotlight and looked at a million Pinterest pages and then decided on following this method from Lady Melbourne.

It’s basically folding down the top of the fabric twice to make a space for elastic, folding it over and stitching the side seam, adding the elastic and sewing it in and finally, hemming to the length you like.

The problem with my fabric is that the pattern was facing the wrong way! I had to make a very slim cut skirt with only one seam (down the back) and, because I like walking, I made a slit in the back. This was done by unpicking (ugh. Won’t make that mistake next skirt) the side seam up to my knee, then folding over the edges of the fabric and hemming, followed by stitching the top of the slit a lot so it wouldn’t accidentally open as I traipse up stairs at work.

Ok, and when I say “I”, I mean “Ben” because I don’t know how to use a sewing machine, but my awesome seamster husband does. So I designed, cut and pinned it and Ben sews it like the awesome tailor he is. You can barely see where the fabric lines up. Wife-husband team win.

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There are two more skirts to come. One of the other pieces of fabric (chevron print) also will be quite slim as a skirt and might need to be a pencil skirt, but the floral one should be all swooshy and lovely. I’ll post pictures as they are born.

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This skirt looks good with a black top and brown or red belt, but also works with my grey singlet with leopard print skull. A big pair of sunnies, a top knot and a pair of boots and that’s all the attitude you need during an Aussie summer.

Why not make one (or dozens) for people for Christmas? Or just yourself.

Yeah, just yourself.

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Yoghurt for the culture vulture.

So is that the most terrible title ever or what? Suggestions for edits welcome.

A while back, I posted the process for yoghurt making. I didn’t add photos, because I didn’t have any at the time. So, to accompany the instructions, here are my pics.

Don’t be nervous about making your own yoghurt. It’s easy, yummy and has saved us a LOT of money over the last two months as it’s basically served as our only other protein source besides beans. We have figured that it costs between $1-2 per litre of yoghurt since we started using dairy milk again. For soy, probably $2-3. It’s common knowledge these days that eating cultured food is beneficial for our health. It can easily be vegan if you don’t mind a thinner yoghurt, as milk powder serves as the thickener. We’ve also found that if you just use milk powder milk, you don’t need to heat your milk and let it cool, you just make the milk, heat to 45 degrees and add your culture (leftover yoghurt from last batch). This also makes the thickest yoghurt.

When I started yoghurt making, one of the things that worried me was keeping everything at the right temperature. This isn’t hard in summer- we just put it on the balcony- but in winter it was challenging. At our new place our hot water system is in a cupboard in the kitchen. There’s just enough space in there to put the jaffle iron… or our yoghurt. The temperature is between 40 and 45 degrees. Perfection.

If my outstanding photography doesn’t convince you, perhaps the picture of the final product served with almonds and a blob of my mum’s quince jelly will convince you.

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Let me know if you plan to have a go or if you have and questions.

 

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Welcome Wagon!

So I love making homemade gifts. It’s a shame that not everyone appreciates them. I love getting a gift that I know someone has spent time on.

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For my birthday, I had one lovely friend make me snickerdoodles (cinnamon biscuits/cookies) that were to die for and presented in a repurposed tin! She had even made half crunchy and half chewy because she didn’t know how I like my biscuits (Chewy, in case anyone ever wants to make me more. Not that I didn’t eat the crunchy ones!). Delicious, frugal and eco.

I love receiving any sort of gift. Whether someone has spent time at a shop, online, in the kitchen or sitting on the living room floor covered in glue, they have spent time thinking about you and that’s awesome.

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I had a housewarming challenge recently, where some family members had bought their first house together. I was on a budget, I had a tight time frame and one of the couple has a gluten allergy. I wanted to buy a couple of new items for their new place, but, frankly, people remember a homemade gift more (for better or worse) and I wanted care factor, because they are important family to use (as opposed to all those unimportant family members running around…).

I wanted to make gluten free noms, because it must suck having to think about baked goods before you tuck in. Above are the peanut butter cookies and banana choc oat cookies that resulted.

And you know what? I lost BOTH recipes, so all that exists of my knowledge of the recipes are the pretty (obviously homemade) labels. Here’s the banana choc oat label, if you want to have a go reconstructing them:

IMAG1935And the finished cookies were put into glass jars I already had, tied off with my dorky labels and nestles into a baking dish with some jam and tea towels. Total cost: Less than $30 (sorry if said family members read this) but very pretty, in my humble opinion.

IMAG1939Yes, that’s my car. Like I said, tight time frame 🙂

Have you ever made someone a (edible or inedible) present? I’d love to know what it was- share the love!

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Poverty In Paradise

With a blue sky and a camera, everything seems like an adventure.

So it doesn’t matter if you have less than $70 to last two people the next fortnight (after rent and that huge bloody bill, damn you car insurance), you can still have fun in Brisbane. I can still have fun in Brisbane. Or any city. For free.

Yesterday was gloomy weather so I got a lot of cooking and laundry done, but today dawned bright and early. I was supposed to do some research and writing, but after my computer died (really truly, I was given the blue screen of death) I decided it was too good a day to mope about lost time. Whether you have a Ben or not, there are lots of indoors and outdoors things you can do  without spending a cent.

Watch Ben make, then help him eat sourdough bread with a poached egg for breakfast. Ben made the bread only, not the egg.

Watch Ben make, then help him eat sourdough bread with a poached egg for breakfast. Ben made the bread only, not the egg.

Organise those thousands of jars I collect for jams, sauces and drinks.

Organise those thousands of jars I collect for jams, sauces and drinks.

Admire my free flower from Coles (they were giving them away because it was "market day").

Admire my free flower from Coles (they were giving them away because it was “market day”).

Water my spring onions, which have been growing in a vase (my best and only) for about 4 weeks, are going strong and provide a little bit of green inside.

Water my spring onions, which have been growing in a vase (my best and only) for about 4 weeks, are going strong and provide a little bit of green inside.

Do laundry. Hey, it's not glamorous, but it's a good free thing to do on a sunny day. I've never had such happy, pretty laundry.

Do laundry. Hey, it’s not glamorous, but it’s a good free thing to do on a sunny day. I’ve never had such happy, pretty laundry.

Play I-spy on our walk. I love this renovated church (which is now a house) with solar panels. One day I'll find where it is at street level and have a good look.

Play I-spy on our walk. I love this renovated church (which is now a house) with solar panels. One day I’ll find where it is at street level and have a good look.

Enjoy the roof of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church (ok, roof admiring is not everyone's hobby but this is MY blog and I'll admire if I want to).

Enjoy the roof of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church (ok, roof admiring is not everyone’s hobby but this is MY blog and I’ll admire if I want to).

Wonder at the beauty that is Brisbane city. The green and the built.

Wonder at the beauty that is Brisbane city. The green and the built.

Check out the Regional Flavours food festival at Southbank. Also, check out those crazy bean bag seats. Bad asses of ass comfort.

Check out the Regional Flavours food festival at Southbank. Also, check out those crazy bean bag seats. Bad asses of ass comfort.

For more info on the Regional Flavours festival, click here.

More Regional Flavours at the Courier Mail Piazza. So pretty.

More Regional Flavours at the Courier Mail Piazza. So pretty.

Eat a beautiful lunch of rosemary polenta chips with chipotle mayo.

Eat a beautiful lunch of rosemary polenta chips with chipotle mayo.

I’ve blogged about how I make polenta. The chipotle mayo was cheater’s version: mayonnaise mixed with chipotle salsa. I have, however, made a scrumptious aioli that goes beautifully with polenta as well, which is in the same post as above. To make rosemary polenta, stir through a small handful of cleaned, de-stemmed rosemary leaves at the end of cooking. I also add a teaspoon or dried oregano for oomph.

Best Sunday morning, and the price was right!

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Enjoy your Sunday! Share your frugal adventure ideas below.

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YES, YOU CAN MAKE YOGHURT

So it’s true. You can make yoghurt. It’s easy. You don’t need any special equipment. You don’t need a yoghurt maker, so if you don’t get your Yo’ on, you haven’t wasted money. If anything is “specialised”, it’s the thermometer. Honestly though, you’re going to use that for other things anyway (if you steam your own milk, if you’re heating food for a baby, if you’re making caramel or candy, if you’re fastidious…). My thermometer only goes to 100C because it was a cheaper one, but you can get proper candy thermometers that go up to 200C.

Anywho, why would you make your own yoghurt? Well, for a start, have you ever READ the ingredients on the side of commercial yoghurt? Not cool. The sugar is the least of our concerns, the preservatives and artificial flavours that are advertised as “natural” because .000001% of an ingredient once came from a farm. When you make your own yoghurt, you control what goes into it. It’s really easy and can be as naughty or healthy as you wish.

My basic recipe is from Rhonda Hetzel’s Down to Earth blog and book:

½ cup of natural yoghurt at room temp (it will come to room temp while you do other stuff)

1 litre of milk (I use soy and I often use closer to 800ml/ 3 cups).

½ cup milk powder (optional, depends on how natural you want your yoghurt, and how thick. You end up with drinking yoghurt if you don’t add it).

With yoghurt, and all fermentation recipes, you have to be very clean, like sterile, or you could much around with the good bacteria you’re trying to encourage in your yoghurt. So, use a very clean saucepan and clean your utensils and the container your yoghurt will sit in with boiling water.

Chuck the milk in the saucepan and heat to 80C. When it’s there, turn the heat off and let it go back down to 45C. This helps to get rid of nasties in your milk. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can tell it’s time to turn off the heat when it starts to release little bubbles but is not near boiling yet.

Cooling to 45C takes 20-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of your saucepan.

When it’s at 45C, whisk in your ½ cup of yoghurt and ½ cup of milk powder. I use Maleny natural yoghurt as it’s truly delicious (starting with good quality helps) and is not full of additives. It’s also local and is totally worth the extra dollar or two you’ll pay. You can use soy or coconut yoghurt if you’d like a vegan starter. When it’s smooth (it will still have a completely liquid consistency), bung it in your sterile container and wrap it in a towel or tea towels. Your yoghurt will need to sit for about 8 hours to do its bacteria thing, but it shouldn’t be moved and it has to keep pleasantly warm. In summer, this isn’t a problem, because our kitchens or verandahs are often hot enough. In winter, I stick mine in a bucket after wrapping it up, and after a few hours, I slide a bottle or two of hot water down the sides to make sure there’s a little heat. On a cold day, it could take 12 hours; on a hot day, 7. The longer you leave it out, the stronger the taste.

Gently open the lid of your container to check it and, when it’s at the consistency you want, put it in the fridge. You can eat it before then, but room temperature yoghurt is NOT what’s going to make you want to eat this again.

BAD IDEA: Letting it sit in the oven, turning it on low for 5 minutes every hour to keep it happy. It wasn’t happy. It was ricotta (yay, cheese!). Trust me on this.

Don’t disturb your yoghurt unless you’re checking if it’s thick enough, or it will split and look grainy. It’s still fine, but it’s not what you want to see. If you get a runny batch (and often the top is thick and looks good, but then you realise it’s thinner down below), it’s still great for muesli and smoothies.

You can also flavour it at the stage you whisk in the yoghurt and milk powder. A couple of tablespoons of honey or a scraped vanilla pod will change the flavour. I would add berries at the end, simply because you don’t want them to ferment with the yoghurt (boozy yog?!).

You can use ½ a cup of your yoghurt to make the next one! The culture gets weaker, so expect a thinner yoghurt or add more milk powder. I buy a container of Maleny yoghurt and portion it out into little containers that go in the freezer. This way, I can grab and defrost a container easily without having to eat to the bottom of a store bought yoghurt before I can make my own. It saves money too.

Yoghurt really is easy to make: three ingredients, about 45 minutes of your time and the reward of a litre of creamy goodness.

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FROM SCRATCH

So I have to start with an apology as I haven’t posted since about Wednesday. This is because of some super-fun I was having in my car, involving rear-ending a lady, then being rear-ended whilst waiting for the tow truck. It was a brilliant Friday. Let’s pretend it didn’t happen and I’ll catch up shortly with all the posts I had planned.

I had so much fun Wednesday. Not just because I visited a friend and her gorgeous toddler, not because it was just after said friend’s birthday and I brought her raw almond and coconut cake and a jar of tomato relish, not just because it’s holidays and roaming the streets of Brisbane is a lot of fun. Because I got to cook something entirely new AND it worked out first time. Whoa.

I made parmesan polenta batons with homemade aioli and tomato relish.

It was actually quite easy and, true to my style, done cutting many corners and over several days to make it super easy. I’m going to put tomato relish is a separate post, because it’s a preserve and therefore not made on the day. You can use a store bought relish or chutney if you prefer. Just buy quality so you’re doing the recipe justice!

 

 

 

 

 

The polenta was made on Tuesday. Now, I don’t make polenta too often, but when I do, I use Matt Preston’s recipe that I snipped out of the paper a couple of years ago. His recipe is for a wet polenta served with a sausage and mushroom sauce (I used vego sausages) and fennel salad. DeVINE. But as everyone who frequents wanky yet glorious cafes knows (and I sure do), your can “set” polenta, cut it up and grill/fry/bake it in wedges, sticks, or whatever shape your imagination wants (hmmm… I have a flower shaped cookie cutter. Maybe next time).

1. Make your polenta (in advance).
INGREEDIENTS:
2 litres chicken stock (I use a vegetarian chicken stock)
20g butter (or margarine)
100g parmesan
Salt and Pepper
3 cups of coarse polenta (not instant)

I had less polenta than the recipe advised, so this time, I reduced everything on the list by 1/3.
Heat your stock in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan. When it’s hot but before boiling, whisk the stock so it forms a whirlpool and pour in the polenta in a fine, steady stream. Keep whisking. You’ll find you slow down quickly as polenta is THICK.

Keep the pan on low and bring to boil. Cook the polenta, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon, until it starts to coagulate and swell up.

Make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan (mine does no matter what I do and is a bastard to scrub off, but never seems to actually burn). Polenta spits when being made, so have the lid and a cloth handy (and wear an apron if you have one. Plus, cooking in an apron is cool).

Now, at this point, Matt Preston’s recipe says it’s ready when it pulls away from the side of the pan (it looks like you’re cooking play dough), but mine does that from an early stage. Polenta usually takes 20-30 minutes to lose its “uncooked” taste, so I try it after 20 minutes and again after 5 if I need to. Taste it. That’s the best way to know.
Stir in butter, parmesan and salt and pepper. Use the best quality parmesan you can find. Because I don’t make polenta too often, I often justify going to the Swiss Deli on Boundary Street, which sells cheese and a plethora or fascinating cooking ingredients (as well as the best packet felafel mix I have ever eaten). They had an Italian and an Australian parmesan the day I went, but the Italian was over $40 and a good $9 more than the Australian cheese. I went Aussie. One day, Italiano, one day.

When the polenta has cooled a little, squish it into plastic containers of your choice, press down firmly and chuck it in the fridge. I made 3 square containers from this recipe. One went in the freezer and two stayed in the fridge, ready for last night’s goodness.

To serve, flip your plastic containers and turn the polenta out onto a board. Cut into desired shapes and thickness. I like fairly thin batons of polenta, because I love the crunch you get when you back them. You can brush with a little oil or do whatever works for you to avoid sticking, and put them in the oven (I don’t DO oven temps for experiments, only baking. I think it was one 180C). Turn once or twice so all sides brown. They’re ready when they’re heated through and at your favourite crispy level. My crispy level is about an 8/10. What’s yours?

2. Aioli
For three years, I was vegan. I loved being vegan, and still eat and make a lot of vegan food. I love the clean, lightness much vegan food has, often with a less “gluggy” after feeling. I went vego again when I was studying again, as my stress levels were making me crave all sorts of things I just didn’t have time to make the vegan-ised version. It’s funny, because before I was vegan, I didn’t eat eggs and rarely ate cheese- only grilled on pizza really. I thought when I finished studying that I’d go back to being vegan, but by then I was hooked on cheeses my mother never thought I’d eat in a million years.

Eggs, however, still freak me out. I do a lot of baking without them and find their sulphur smell quite repelling. Everyone told me that making cakes with eggs would be an easy way to eat eggs if I wanted to, but I really love vegan cake alchemy. I ate a boiled egg from time to time and then at Lock and Load (oh local of locals) discovered two things: kick ass shoestring fries with garlic aioli, and poached eggs. Turns out, I like both.

I found this recipe on the superb Melbourne food and cooking blog Cook (Almost) Anything.
They used smoked garlic, but I used a clove of roasted garlic that I had chucked in the oven a couple of days before when I was cooking something else.
Here is their recipe and link:

SMOKED GARLIC AIOLI
1 egg yolk
1 clove, smoked garlic
sea salt flakes
finely ground white pepper
125mls neutral oil (not olive oil)
lemon juice

Take a clove of garlic and slice it finely. Sprinkle over with a few sea salt flakes and using the flat of your knife, mash the garlic with the salt flakes. The flakes are abrasive and will turn the garlic into a paste.

Place the egg yolk, the garlic paste and a dash of ground white pepper into a bowl. Whisk this mixture until combined.

The next part decides whether your aioli or mayonnaise will work out – it’s the addition of the oil. It’s important at the beginning to really just add a drop or two at a time until the mixture starts to thicken – you can then drizzle it at a steady pace while you whisk.

Once all the oil has been absorbed keep whisking until the mixtures looks glossy – add a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice (or a white wine vinegar if you prefer) and whisk briefly. Give it a finely taste and adjust any of the seasonings as desired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Store this in the fridge in a sealed container.

Serve all this up with polenta batons and tomato relish. Eat quickly, as if you are sharing, you may end up in a fight over the last baton and bit of aioli.
This aioli was good the next day in sandwiches as well!
Try it, totally worth it.

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