Monday, 27 August 2012

Christmas Gifts to Make

Is it too Early to think about Christmas yet?  I don't think so if you are planning on making most of your gifts this year.

These past few weeks I have found myself thinking more and more about Christmas and what I'm going to be gifting to my friends and family.

Some things need to be made quite a long way ahead, like soap, so that it has time to cure.  Knitted items take quite a bit of time to make and so not to be rushed I think starting now would be a good idea.  I also make my own Christmas cards and like to send those out at the beginning of December and that my friends is only 12 weeks away.

I've been searching the internet for some unique gifts and here are a few of what I've seen lately, with links to the sites for the instructions plus a few gifts that I have featured on my blog.

Handmade soaps and a wash cloth are always some of my favourites and the pretty much family expect this as a gift from me each year.  A basket with a variety of wonderfully fragrant soaps, a pumicestone and knitted wash cloth or scrubbie is always a winner.  You can find my recipe for handmade soap from things in your pantry here.

Tea cup candles are also a lovely gift.  You can pick up beautiful china tea cups from thrift shops at hardly any cost and fill then with wax from either a melted down candle or some wax beads from a craft store. I have a small tutorial on the blog here.
 Last year I made these cute melted snowman cookies that were a huge hit with my kids and their friends.  A cellophane bag full of these would make a gift that any child or adult would love.  You can find a recipe and decorating directions on the Crazy Domestic Blog.

If you have teenagers then you might like these ideas of gifting money rather than just popping it into a card.  My teens usually ask for money so they can buy something themselves but on Christmas morning I like them to be able to open a present like everyone else rather than just a card so I think this year I will choose one of these ideas.
This lovely money tree is from this website: Then she made.  And the Holiday Dough below is from Heart and Soul Scrappers.

What are you making for your family this year?  Lets share some ideas over the coming months.  I am going to update my blog with ideas when I've discovered some new ones that look particularly good to me and hopefully will have some photos of my own creations as time goes by.


Friday, 24 August 2012

Making a Pirate Bunting

A bunting is quite a simple sewing project and an easy way to decorate a kids room or for a party.  I made this one for my grandson's first birthday in just a few hours one afternoon.

I made a simple cardboard template for the triangle shape and then used a rotary cutter and cutting mat to cut each piece to size.  24 triangles later I had enough so that I could have each one with a matching backing.  Then placing wrong sides together I sewed a 1/4" seam down 2 sides leaving the top open.  Next I trimmed the sewn edges with pinking shears to give a zig zag seam effect and also so the material wouldn't fray when washed.

Alternatively, if you don't have pinking shears or a zig zag cutter for your rotary cutter, you could place the fabric right sides together and sew the seam down 2 sides then turn them right side out.

Once all the fabric triangles were made I sewed them into the fold of some large bias binding, leaving a meter at each end for ties to hang the bunting.

A relaxing and satisfying afternoon sewing an easy project that is also now an economical birthday present made with love for my grandson.  What could be better than that.


Monday, 20 August 2012

Pickling Beetroot - Preserving

I love beetroot.  I love the fact that you can grow it in Autumn/Winter and use it as a roasted vegetable or preserve it for Summer salads.  It is a lovely addition to the pantry stockpile from our veggie garden.

Despite my rather meager harvest of beetroot from the vegetable garden I still decided to pickle some to eat with Summer salads and on burgers.  I bought two more from the store to make up enough to get two large jars of pickled beets.

First I washed and trimmed the beetroot so that they were really clean and then covered them with water and boiled until just tender.  Drain off the water and once they are cool enough to handle easily, just peel the skins off by rubbing with your thumbs.  The skin comes of quite easily.
Slice the beetroot so they are in about 2mm thick slices and pack loosely into sterilized jars.
Beetroot boiling in the back saucepan and pickling brine simmering in front
Make a pickling brine using the recipe below.  This yielded enough for two 500ml jars of beetroot.

1 cup water
11/2 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp peppercorns
3 cloves
1 cinnamon stick

Mix all ingredients together and simmer for 5 minutes.  Strain and pour into jars that have had the beetroot already packed into them.  Seal the jars while hot so that a vacuum seal is created.  Leave for a few weeks for the pickling process to take place before eating.  Keep in a cool pantry until opened and then keep in the fridge.

Enjoy with a side salad or on burgers or meat and salad sandwiches.  An Aussie favourite!


Saturday, 18 August 2012

In the Garden

It's such a beautiful day today.  The sun is shining, there is a lovely, but somewhat strong, breeze blowing and the neighbourhood must all be taking their afternoon naps as I write this because it is so peaceful.  All I hear is the sound of the wind rustling the tall grasses in the garden and some birds chirping.
It's days like this that help me to slow down, fill me with peace and give me a sense that all is right in my world.  It's a time to refresh from a busy week and recharge the batteries for the next one.

The first Sweet-peas of the season.
Today I spent some time in the veggie garden and as I walked around the corner there was this lovely little Sweet-pea flower smiling at me, what a lovely surprise as it wasn't there yesterday and I was beginning to despair that they were ever going to flower.

It's been over a month since we've had any rain and so the veggies are suffering somewhat and I must get back into the habit of watering them regularly.  Today's harvest was good and before I could even get the snow peas washed and in the fridge my husband had a plate of them and was munching away. They are deliciously sweet.

Lovely basket full of freshly picked organic vegetables straight from the garden

The tomato bushes are still giving plenty of tomatoes and I am stewing them on the stovetop and then freezing them for later use.

The beetroot harvest was not as plentiful as I had hoped but there is enough to pickle a couple of jars to eat in Summer with salads and on burgers.  This is my first time growing beetroot and I noticed that the ones that got the most sun were the largest so next time I will make sure they have plenty of space to allow the sunlight in.

After all the vegetables are harvested, cut, washed and put away, the leftover stalks, leaves and the bean bushes were all put into the compost ball to make a lovely compost and then return to the vegetable garden to enrich the soil for another crop.  The ultimate in recycling.

Thanks for visiting my blog.  You will notice that I am not blogging as frequently as I once was and that is because life has just stepped up a notch.  I will be blogging as often as I can and hopefully that will be a couple of times a week so please check back from time to time.


Monday, 13 August 2012

Jam Making Time - Strawberry Jam

Oh yum!  It's strawberry season here and what better than some lovely home-made strawberry jam.   I went out to visit a local strawberry farm and picked up a few kilos of some 'seconds' for jam making.

To make the jam I used a basic recipe as below and the whole house smells like a fairy floss factory, it's a beautiful thing.

3 kilos of fruit made 9 jars of jam which I will now gift a few to my kids who are living out of home and the rest I will store in the pantry stockpile for use throughout the year.

1 kilo of strawberries, washed and hulled
700gm sugar
2 lemons
1 pkt 'Jamsetta' (Pectin)

I tripled the amounts as I had 3 kilos of strawberries.

Place the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and leftover lemon halves into a large heavy-based pot. Very slowly warm the sugar and strawberries until the sugar has dissolved completely.  Turn up the heat and boil rapidly for about 20 - 30 minutes.  Add the jamsetta and continue to boil being careful the jam doesn't burn on the bottom.
Test by putting a small dollop of jam onto a cold saucer and put in the freezer to cool.  When it is completely cold you can see how set the jam is.  If you like a thick jam then leave it to boil a bit longer.

I sterilize my jars by pouring boiling water into them and the lids and let them sit until the jam is ready.  Then I empty the jars and while they are still warm I fill them with the hot jam mixture and put the lids on.  As the jam cools it causes a vacuum inside the jars and the lids will 'pop' back in and make a nice tight seal.
Jam made this way can be stored in the pantry for months.  We still eat jam made and stored this way after 12 months of storage.

NOTE:  Jamsetta is a pectin based mix that will help your jam to set without hours of boiling.  It keeps the strawberry jam a lighter colour.  If jam boils for too long it becomes very dark in colour but if you don't mind that then it is an extra expense you can leave out of the process.

Happy jam making!


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Brief Blogging Break

Hi everyone

I'm taking a brief respite from the blog for a week or so.  Things in my life are quite hectic at the moment and I'm feeling tired and will benefit from a little break.

In the meantime have a look around the blog and take some time to read past posts.  I'm sure you will find something of interest in the archives.

Take Care


Friday, 3 August 2012

The beginnings of Spring?

Despite the fact that it is only just August, and that means we are still in the middle of winter, it seems that nature has a different idea this year.  Spring has begun to poke it's lovely head through the cold and foggy mornings, early even for our sub-tropical climate.  I must admit though, the weather here is just beautiful at the moment, cool crisp mornings and gorgeous sunny days and as I write this I can hear birds chattering, a gentle breeze rustling the flax grasses outside the window and a lawn mower off in the distance.

Driving down the road home yesterday I noticed that there are already so many wild flowers blooming. Lots of the green and gold wattle in flower, just in time for the Olympics to cheer our Aussie athletes on, and a variety of other bushes as well which I didn't get to stop and take a photo of.

Some more lovely flowers are daring to raised their little heads in the gardens too!
and a few more

Of course this means that the soil is warming up and it's time to begin our Spring planting in the vegetable garden so I am in the planning stages of what to grow this season.  I have limited space and so need to plan carefully to get the most effective use from the available space, but the tomatoes are nearly finished and it is also nearly time to harvest the beetroot so that will make quite a bit of space.  I think this weekend I will have to put aside some time for the vegetable garden, digging through some manure and compost to enrich the soil for new seedlings.

I love Spring, it's my favourite time of the year!


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Recycling Records into Bowls

Last weekend I made another trip to our local recycling centre and my husband and son came along with me.  Just quietly I think they are becoming quite addicted to the centre too :)

One of the things my son decided on buying were some old records to decorate the walls of his bedroom with and while we were there we picked up a few extras to make into funky bowls for chips and nuts and other goodies at a party.  It is a really easy upcycling project to do and you end up with these fabulous looking and useful bowls.
Materials needed:
Old Records
Biscuit tray or other flat oven proof tray
Oven proof bowl for a mold
Oven mitts

First we made sure we were not going to melt down any rare and valuable records by checking online! Then we heated up the oven to 130C as any hotter and the records can emit toxic fumes.

Use a suitable sized heat proof bowl, placed it on an oven proof tray and then lay the record on top of it. We found that having the bowl the right side up and pushing the pliable record inside it gave the most uniform shape for our newly formed 'record bowl', whereas placing the glass bowl upside down and letting the record melt around the outside of it created a very haphazard looking 'record bowl'.
Place the oven tray with glass bowl and record into the oven and leave for about 2 or 3 minutes. You will see the record slowly start to warp, this is when you put on your oven mitts and carefully place your hands inside the oven and press the record down into the glass bowl that you are using as a mold, taking care to keep it centered. Alternatively you could very quickly remove the tray, bowl and record from the oven and press the record down so as not to burn yourself on the oven but you need to work quickly. The record gets hot but not so hot that it will cause serious damage, you can handle it quite comfortably, but the glass bowl and tray are a different matter and you will need the oven mitts.

Take the tray, bowl and record from the oven and allow the record to cool and firm up again.  This only takes a minute or less.  Remove your new record bowl from the glass mold and you are done.

There is a hole in the middle that you could cover with some black tape, silicone or other substance but we are not going to use the bowl for anything runny so we didn't bother.

I am sure the chemicals in vinyl records are not pleasant so it would be wise to consider what foods you were serving from them.


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