Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fruit Breads

Do you have a favourite fruit bread fruit combination? These are some of the ones I've made recently:

Date and walnut
Dried apricot
Fig and glacé ginger

I was particularly hopeful about the fig and ginger one, but it wasn't quite as mind blowingly good as I had hoped it would be (although it was still very nice). Perhaps it was too wholemeally? Perhaps it was the wrong shape (the dough was very wet and I didn't handle it well so it was flatter than I wanted, and I got rather cranky).

I think so far the dried apricot one is my favourite. I have a bunch of raisins and currants sitting in the pantry, so I might use those up next time, with almonds! Any other suggestions?

Blurry photo, sorry!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Things I don't normally do

There are two things I hardly ever bake: biscuits/cookies and pastry.

Biscuits (however tasty) involve faff. You have to make lots of little balls of dough, roll them, flatten them, bake them in lots of batches (or at least I do; our oven is small)... Yawn. I prefer to make one big thing, like a cake, that I can just stick in there and forget about for half an hour or whatever, without being chained to the kitchen. However, having made the oatmeal raisin cookies from Veganomicon (photo here) - VERY PATIENTLY I might add, three sheets worth of carefully rolled and flattened cookies) - I am prepared to admit that diligence does pay off. I'm just not that keen on that much diligence very often.

Pastry - I lack confidence with. I am intimidated by the concept of making and handling pastry. I'm not quite sure why though, because despite my fear I have made several lots of shortcrust pastry in the last month or so and each has turned out well, and even been easy! Perhaps my developing bread-baking skills are giving me more confidence. Even more exciting is the fact that I now know how to make sourdough pastry, using this recipe from Wild Sourdough:

50g sourdough starter (any kind; I normally use rye)
310g wholemeal wheat or spelt flour (I haven't tried it with white flour yet)
85g water for plain pastry or maple syrup for sweet (honey also works)
75g olive oil
1 tsp salt (optional so far as I'm concerned)

Preheat oven to 200C.

Combine the liquid ingredients including starter and mix thoroughly. Stir into the flour and add the salt if using. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before rolling out and lining your pie dish - this is enough pastry for a 26cm tart or about 3 dozen mini tarts. (It also works well for free-form tarts.) Prick the base several times with a fork.

Rest for 30 minutes in the fridge before filling and baking - you can also blind bake it for about 10 minutes or so if you want to add a filing later.


I filled this little stack of sweet tart cases with the following coconut-chocolate ganache:

200ml coconut cream
200g dark chocolate (50-70% cocoa depending on how sweet you want it)

Heat the coconut cream in a small saucepan over low heat until steaming. Remove from the heat. Break up the chocolate into small chunks and add to the coconut cream, stirring until completely melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly then pour into tart cases. It will thicken and set as it cools. Store in the fridge.

It's not super-strong in the coconut flavour - you might like to add some coconut essence or liqueur or something if you want it stronger. You can use it as a sauce for ice cream or to ice a cake. Or just eat it. It's pretty good.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Taking Things at a Different Pace

I tend to rush around. I like to get from A to B at a brisk pace. I tell myself I can 'slow down later'. Well, like tomorrow, later never comes... or when it does it tends to get filled up with other stuff that Has To Be Done Now.

Having a toddler in tow, however... well. That's a whole different thing isn't it. Either Pippin is attached to my leg making it difficult for me to get from A to B (and I'm talking about from the bench to the kitchen table, not some epic trip), or else I'm holding his hand while he toddles alongside me, forcing me to go at a pace his little legs can manage. Or else he's in the stroller and I'm going along at a fair crack and then I remember that I could go slower and actually point things out to him, talk to him, take him OUT of the stroller even (brainwave!) and let him potter around a bit, before continuing on our way.

Guess what? You can see and do some pretty fun and lovely things when you slow down a little bit.

Conservatory at the Fitzroy Gardens

 Tudor Village (ripe for stomping, Tokyo-style?)

 Snoozing wizard

Although that said... Pippin CAN also move himself from A to B pretty fast when he wants to, especially when A is one end of the kitchen where his toys are and B is the other end where the rubbish bin is.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What I've been baking lately

Half 'n half wheat-spelt sourdough, my new favourite I think - I've made two batches; this was the first and it was better than the second. Not quite sure why? That said the second batch was quite different from the first... no spelt just white/wholemeal wheat, I remembered the salt, I made it free-form instead of in a tin, held the dough over in the fridge for 2 days... ok, ok, so basically it was two different loaves entirely.

 Oatmeal-raisin cookies from Veganomicon - the yummiest ever!

 A second batch of ciabatta, more successfully and carefully shaped this time.

And a second batch of Peter Reinhart's French Bread #1 from Crust and Crumb... the first batch tasted ok but I didn't even photograph it because it looked appalling. I got the shelves and heat wrong in the oven so it burnt on the bottom and didn't colour on the top. This batch was better. I had to return the book to the library but when I get my hands on it again I'm going to try a third time to see if I can improve some more!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Peaceful Sunday

 Bread on the rise...


a gorgeous posie of herbs and flowers 
(from the Collingwood Children's Farm market yesterday)

...and kitteh basking on the windowsill!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Lemonade Scones

I have never made lemonade scones before. Have you? I don't think I've ever even eaten them before. Which is a pity, because they are delicious, and easy! I made them to share with a lovely friend who came over for afternoon tea yesterday - kindly bringing with her some DELICIOUS homemade peach and vanilla jam (I am still swooning! It was that delicious. Did I already say that?).

I think I need to somehow mark my scone cutters with their sizes though (and my cake tins for that matter) because I never know how wide they are, and it is a pain to have to get out the tape measure or ruler every time. Except for the times when I don't, and then I end up with scones that are too big, like yesterday's. But that didn't really matter all that much because they were so yummy!

The ones I made were based on this recipe from my version was as follows:

300g self-raising flour, sifted
55g caster sugar
125ml soy milk
125ml lemonade (fizzy, not flat - you need the bubbles to make the scones rise or something)
zest of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 220C and lightly grease a baking tray or square cake tin.

Stir together the sifted flour, sugar and lemon zest. Pour in the lemonade and soy milk and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a couple of minutes - the dough is very sticky so you'll probably need to add a little more flour. Press into a flat round about 2cm thick and cut out with a 6cm (theoretically) cutter. Place close together on the tray or tin and brush the top with a little more soy milk if desired. 

Bake for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your scones. Turn out and enjoy while still warm!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Something Lovely

Yesterday I had the opportunity - the first in weeks, if not months - to leave Pippin at home with a babysitter in the afternoon and go out! By myself!! For a couple of hours!!!*

I walked up to Smith St and had a potter around in the awesome Lost and Found Market... I managed not to buy anything... (this time) and then took myself to Las Vegan Bakery for chai (best I've ever had while out and about) and some comfort e-book reading: The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie.

(original cover image from wikipedia, link above)

I love Agatha Christie books. LOVE them. I had read most of them by the time I was 12 years old... starting age 8 with The Seven Dials Mystery which was on my mum's bedside table when I used to curl up in my parents' electric-blanketed bed instead of my own on winter nights (until I got shooed out when they wanted to come to bed!) and onwards and upwards from there.

They are totally my go-to comfort reading. I think my favourites tend to be Miss Marple ones, but Tommy and Tuppence are so spunky and awesome (especially Tuppence) that their tales come a close second. There is no better reading with a cup of tea (except perhaps a Tea Shop Mystery).

*no, that is not too many exclamation marks for this momentous event.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Something Lovely

Image from we heart it

Yesterday I read this post, 'You Are Already Perfect' from Zen Habits, and it really resonated with me. It was just what I needed to read and I hope you enjoy it too.

I particularly liked this bit:

And here’s another realization that I’ve written about before: You already have everything you need to be happy, right here and right now.

Do you have eyes that see? You have the ability to appreciate the beauty of the sky, of greenery, of people’s faces, of water. Do you have ears that hear? You have the ability to appreciate music, the sound of rainfall, the laughter of friends. You have the ability to feel rough denim, cool breezes, grass on bare feet … to smell fresh-cut grass, flowers, coffee … to taste a plum, a chili pepper, chocolate.

This is a miracle, and we take it for granted. Instead, we strive for more, when we already have everything.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Softies for Mirabel

Do you like to make things? Have you heard about Softies for Mirabel?

It is a project where you make a soft toy and donate it to the Mirabel Foundation which provides support for kids who have been affected by a parent's drug addiction. I only just heard about it via Meet Me At Mike's; and I am not terribly good at making soft toys but I think I am going to have a go! How about you? You can also contribute to the Mirabel Foundation in other ways if that is better for you.

You can sign up for softie-ness here!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Flavour of the Week - Dulce de Leche Ripple

Dear Colleagues,

The latest iced delight to grace the ground floor freezer presents a puzzle.  One taste is enough to render the unsuspecting scooper dizzy, but it this because of the stupefyingly simple genius with which it fuses vanilla ice cream and smooth caramel sauce?  Or simply the precursor to an onrushing diabetic coma?  Why not both?  Enjoy, for as long as you can stay conscious, the golden swirls of lovingly home-made Dulce de Leche (“sweet of milk”).  This traditional Latin American confection, coupled with an already-sucrotic creamy-eggy frozen custard, is just the challenge that our nation’s dentists and insulin specialists have been preparing for. Don’t let them have planned in vain!

Dietary information: this ice cream contains milk, cream, egg yolks, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, vodka and salt.

Yours recommending Dulce de Leche as a breakfast spread,

The Stressed Chef

Monday, September 27, 2010

Radical Homemakers - have you read it?

I'm reading it at the moment (on my iPad as an e-book, ironically but conveniently enough). I came across it mentioned on the Apron Stringz blog (which is awesome in itself) and have been working my way through it over the last week or so - I'm about two-thirds of the way through. It's incredibly thought provoking. I admit I picked it up, virtually speaking, because following the closure of my Etsy shop (which you can read about here) and entering into basically 100% full-time 'home duties' (as it was so lyrically put in my most recent mobile phone contract) I really, REALLY needed some reassurance that I am:

a.) Not lazy, and
b.) Making a valid and responsible lifestyle choice

particularly in light of the fact that many of the other mums in Pippin's local playgroup are heading back into the workforce.

And Radical Homemakers is reassuring - forcefully so - from that point of view. It is also quite an eye opener into some aspects of American consumer culture, although I am of course aware that the author has a particular view of the world and that this colours the way she represents that culture. I am just starting the section of the book which discusses the underlying 'how' of being a Radical Homemaker - the skills of nurturing relationships, redefining pleasure, rediscovering 'real food' (I think we do pretty well on that one already, honestly) and so on. I'm particularly looking forward to reading this section, I am sure it will be inspiring.

What I would also really like would be a book written about Australian Radical Homemakers... and to meet some... I would love to know if you have read it and what you think about it!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The BEST Tomato and Lentil Soup

Ever! I invented it the other night. I'm writing it down here a.) to share it and b.) to remember it! If you like tomato soup, especially one with lentils, give it a try!

olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
3 small handfuls green lentils (preferably French-type 'Puy' ones)
2 x 400g tins of diced tomatoes

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until soft. Add the herbs and fennel seeds and stir around for about a minute. Add the lentils and stir in the tinned tomatoes. Then add approximately two cans-full of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are cooked - about 30 or 40 minutes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ruby Grapefruit Marmalade

Earlier this week I made ruby grapefruit marmalade based on the recipe for orange marmalade in Sally Wise's A Year in a Bottle - great book, so inspiring!

When I say 'based on' I mean that rather more loosely than I intended... not only did I substitute ruby grapefruit and their juice for the oranges and orange juice (which is fine according to the recipe) I forgot to put in a lemon (which is NOT fine according to the recipe).

I was rather cranky when I realised that I had forgotten the lemon because I thought it meant that the marmalade wouldn't set properly... it looked very runny. But what do you know - once it had thoroughly cooled it set just fine! So I am over my grump.

Gosh I love marmalade, making it AND especially eating it! Do you? This one tastes great. And it was so easy - you chop the fruit finely in the food processor so it doesn't take long at all.

My husband and I have had the ambition this year to make one preserve a month - we're a bit behind (although I cheated a little and made lavender sugar and cinnamon sugar one night, just to get us a bit up to speed! Ha!) but we're not doing too badly, which means we will have plenty of homemade goodies to all ready to hand out at Christmas time rather than making things in a bit of a rush at the last minute!

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Thrifty Storage Solution

Looking for a new storage solution for our dishwashing brushes and scourers and things, I hit upon what I think is an equally nifty and thrifty and nice-looking solution - a terracotta flower pot sitting on top of a random vintage saucer from my collection that has no matching cup!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A really useful site!

I discovered this site just the other day: I Op Therefore I Am - a collaborative blog about the joys of op-shopping in Melbourne!

Full of useful info about opening hours and locations... I'm definitely going to be referring to this one often! It will make it so much easier to make the most out of an op-shopping trip if I know there are several places to check out in a particular area!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Flavour of the Week: Chocolate Peanut Butternanza

 (The Stressed Chef is on a work trip to Washington DC - he took the picture above! - so this week's ice cream 
is as American-inspired as... well... chocolate peanut butter pie. 
Also, he has told me that thus far, his US ice cream experience has been mediocre compared with his own creations).

Dear Colleagues,

In a tribute to deliciously excessive Americana, this week’s ice cream takes a sumptuous cocoa-loaded cream and splodges a heaping wodge of enchantingly smooth peanut butter into it.  After vigorous and extended stirring of the arm-wrenchingly thick mixture, followed by a turn in the ice cream churn that almost gave the overburdened motor a nervous breakdown, the result is tasty enough to make intelligible speech challenging.  “Mmm” may be the best that you can do, particularly if you’re allergic and undergoing an almost-worthwhile bout of anaphylaxis.  The clearly labelled concoction can be had from the freezer downstairs.

Dietary information: this ice cream contains milk, cream, sugar, salt, cocoa, peanut butter.

Yours in allergen alert,

The Stressed Chef

Friday, September 17, 2010

Something Lovely

I am obsessed with apple cosies; they are so kind of pointless yet also so AWESOME. Although, I suppose they are kind of practical if you are carting your apples around in your handbag... At any rate, wouldn't you just love to snugly wrap up your fruit in one of these!!

Apple cosy by Beadles and Pins

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Not (Much) Cheating (I Hope)

Our iron died an unfortunate and violent death the other day. It took a plunge from the ironing board to the hard floor just as my husband was in the middle of ironing his shirt for work that day. Normally shirts get ironed on a Sunday night when we are over at my parents' house... this particular Sunday my parents came over here for dinner so shirts did not get ironed... a star-crossed turn of events and a real shame because that iron was very functional until it ended up slightly splattered on the floor.

Luckily my husband had a couple of casual shirts that were ironed, and no urgent meetings to attend which would require him to be properly dressed and suited up for a couple of days!

So, I thought about trying to locate a second hand one, but in the end I made a trip to the city to acquire a new iron. I feel a bit guilty, but I wasn't sure where to look for a second hand one, nor was there a great deal of leisure to look for it. I can't deny that buying a new iron was just more convenient than not. (In hindsight perhaps I should have gone to Savers first? Didn't think of that at the time though.) Hopefully though this one will last at least as long, if not longer, than the now-defunct one (which must have been about ten years old, I reckon).

Or maybe I should have gone looking for one of these?

 I was slightly comforted to know that Tif from Dottie Angel has had similar issues recently!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

This Week's Baking: Ciabatta

I made sourdough ciabatta for the first time this week. The process was a but different - the whole rise (apart from the last hour or so) was in the fridge,and prior to that the dough was stirred rather than kneaded - it was VERY wet dough.

My shaping left quite a bit to be desired, unfortunately. Only the middle one really looked like a proper loaf.

I cooked the loaves on the bottom shelf of the oven with Tennant's pizza stone under the tray and a water bath on the top rack. Not sure how much difference the water bath made (it's meant to made the crust crustier I think?) but the bottoms browner nicely! Sinceour oven heats from the bottom, though, the tops didn't colour at all in the short baking time (15 minutes). Luckily I came up with a solution - rearrange the racks and then put the loaves under the grill for five minutes or so until browner. It worked a treat.

The ciabatta was SO delicious. And check out those air holes!

I didn't intentionally cut it this way so it would look like a pair of lungs... These things happen to me sometimes.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Something Lovely

I spotted these round and about the streets near where I live...

...I think there's a third one as well but I couldn't remember where it was to go back and get a photo of it. I'm not sure who the 'happy bandit' is (it's not me) but I like his or her style!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Flavour of the Week: Raspberry-Vanilla

Dear Colleagues,

Australia’s most pressing political crisis came to an end this morning as Senator the Hon Walter Whippy declared he had the numbers to retain his position as Minister for Ice Cream.  While less-crucial negotiations over the national government continue between the ALP, Coalition and Independents, Senator Whippy said he had cobbled together an agreement to fuse Raspberry First and The Australian Vanilla Party into a unity flavour that promises stability and deliciousness.

The announcement is a disappointment for The Chocolates and the Citizens Coffee Council, whose efforts to form a mocha coalition foundered despite natural affinities amid a bitter dispute over who was tastier.  Sources close to Senator Whippy say that he rejected overtures from The Chocolates early on, fearing association with the Chocolates-dominated Neapolitan government of the 1970s.  The latter still evokes unhappy memories of waffle rationing and unauthorised attempts to borrow whipped cream from shadowy Middle Eastern financiers.

While Senator Whippy declares he will serve out a full term, independent observers expect the unity flavour (already ensconced in the ground floor freezer) to last for no more than a single litre.  Metaphor confusion has left insiders split on whether ambitious plans for sorbet reform are now on the front burner or whether they are to be put on ice.  However, a commitment to transparency is likely to be met, with full ingredient disclosure pledged by all sides.

Dietary information: this ice cream contains milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, vodka, raspberries.

PS some of last week’s unheralded-but-rather-nice cara gelato remains to be eaten too (cara juice and zest, milk, sugar).

Yours negotiatedly,

The Stressed Chef

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fathers' Day

This Sunday just past was Fathers' Day - Tennant's first! He has been working SO hard, so I got him a voucher for a relaxation massage, but then I wanted to get him something Pippin related as well. I decided to try making hand prints with Pippin.

Well. He was not so much of a fan of having his hands smooshed around in paint as I anticipated... And he cried... And wanted to smear his paint-y hands all over himself and me... But I managed to get them pressed onto sheets of paper instead, without too much collateral damage!

(I had high hopes of getting Pippin to draw something with some crayons as well, but that requires morer coordination and lessinterestbin stuffing everything in our mouth, apparently.)

So now Tennant can take Pippin's very first artwork and stick it up at his desk at work.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Something Lovely

This is one of my favourite photos of Pippin and Tennant, taken when Pippin was not very old at all... how tiny he was!

Today he is 10 months old! And growing up and changing every day. I love him to bits.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

This Week's Baking: Rye & Spelt Sourdough and Chocolate Cherry Cake

It's been a while since I did a baking post... I have been too sick to bake much over the last couple of weeks - we even had to buy bread from the market the other weekend, which we haven't done for ages! And then I thought my sourdough starter might have died... It was looking very sorry for itself in the fridge... But I took it out and gave it some love (and flour and water) and it has perked right back up and is still doing its job beautifully. Thank goodness!

Today I made a rye and spelt sourdough. Here it is on the rise in its tin:

This dough was a dream to knead, not too sticky at all. Drives me bananas when the dough is super sticky, especially because I am not always as organised as I should be and then I have to go hunting for my bench scraper with dough all over my hands, etc etc. I do try to remember my mise en place but I get a bit carried away sometimes.

It's not been super warm and in fact has been raining steadily for most of the day, so the dough rose relatively slowly. I'm pretty happy with the way I rolled and shaped it to fit the tin this time; I need a lot more practice (and maybe to watch some instructional videos) to get my shaping right!

I wish I could share with you how nice this bread made the kitchen smell on this rainy, rainy day! I had some trouble getting it out of the tin to check it for doneness, unfortunately... The bottom stuck even though I thought I had greased it thoroughly. Oh well.

Last night I made a chocolate cake for dessert (seeing as dinner was a pot roast that didn't require any last minute preparation - have I mentioned how much I love my slow cooker?? I must write a post in praise of it sometime) from my husband's Ultimate Encyclopaedia of Chocolate: the Chocolate Cherry Polenta Cake.

It's quite a nice cake and relatively easy to make as well. I don't normally choose recipes that involve beating egg whites and folding them into a mixture because that sounds intimidating. It wasn't too hard though, but I think the cake turned out a bit flatter and denser than it was supposed to because I didn't fold the egg whites in delicately enough. Anyone have any handy hints for how to do this properly??

The cake tastes good, but I prefer the Nigella Lawson chocolate brownies for sheer chocolatey indulgence! But this cake was a good way to use up some glacé cherries that have been lurking in the pantry for goodness knows how long (although glacé cherries are so scarily artificial that they could probably survive almost indefinitely. There's something slightly addictive about them though don't you think?).

Monday, August 30, 2010

Busy Monday

Mondays are busy for me and Pippin...

In the morning we go to the local pool for Pippin's swimming lesson (well, 'water familiarisation class' is the correct if excessively lengthy term)...

And in the afternoon we go to playgroup. It's so fun to see how all the babies are growing and changing and really have their own personalities.

Today because it was a beautiful, sunny, mild day, after playgroup Pippin and I went for a bit of a walk and spent some time in the Fitzroy Gardens looking at grass and leaves (and definitely NOT putting them in our mouths)!

And now a very tired baby is sound asleep and I am looking forward to dinner.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I would really like to knit this blanket!

Wouldn't you? The pattern is available here. Do you think it's too hard for a novice knitter like me? Part of the reason why I only ever knit things in plain stitch is because if I have to put the work down I can't find my place again in the pattern to know where I'm up to!

Do you have any other suggestions for simple blankets to knit? I would really like to make one to keep us snug next winter.

On a related note, what are your thoughts about buying new craft supplies (like the wool I would need to make a blanket - I don't know if I could afford to make a blanket out of completely handspun wool! Or to buy a completely hand-knitted blanket, for that matter) - does that fit in with my Challenge of the Utmost Kind? I have been umming and ahhing over this issue for a while. I have bought a couple of new supplies recently (a little fabric, some polymer clay) for a gift that I am trying to make for the Calico & Co Birthday Swap. Was that bad, do you think? I do hope not...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Well, over the last ten days or so I have had some very bad news and been very sick. Connected or not, who knows? It has been a pretty crappy time I must say.

Today, however, I'm starting to feel better physically and to get things back in perspective. I'm taking the time to get some household things done... Like folding the nappies (Pip has spent the last couple of days in disposables!) and sorting out laundry and making the bed. And I just did some yoga and had a cup of tea. (I also had to have a giggle while doing my yoga, because I had some rainforet sounds playing on my iPod, and the bird calls sent our cat hunting round the room trying unsuccessfully to locate their source.)

I'm thinking that maybe this afternoon or this evening I might bake some biscuits... Or anything really, because it is beyond freezing at our house today and having the oven going will be a good way to warm the place up a bit! This evening I think I will snuggle down with my husband, some tea and my Tea Geek course and do some tea-geeky study. I really feel like doing homey, comforting, quiet things. What about you?.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I am worth more.

Trawling my way around the interwebs, I managed just before to stumble across the first pro-anorexia blog I have ever read (I am not going to link to it). I am feeling sad and confronted by the feelings this has brought up for me.

Those of you who know me well will be aware that I have struggled with eating issues for approximately half my life. I developed anorexia in my teens, pulled myself out of that, headed a pretty straight course to bulimia via a very strict vegan diet, and have been working for the last approximately 5 years to recover from the bulimia.

I am extraordinarily lucky in that while my eating disorders have often made me miserable they have not destroyed my life or my overall health. I am working on having a calmer, happier relationship with food. This blog, where I celebrate the things that I cook and eat, is part of this. It's hard work, especially when I am tired and stressed as I often am, but I can genuinely say that I am now on the road to being recovered, rather than just struggling, or even worse, pretending.

There is so much more to a meaningful life and a HEALTHY life than the type of food I eat, the amount I weigh, the way I look. This really is easier to remember and to live when I don't expose myself to media that suggest otherwise... but that's another post.

I came across the image at the start of this post on the Kind Over Matter blog and it stuck with me. It also made me wonder about how to define my worth in non-weight, non-food ways... but that's another post too. The point I want to make for myself and for anyone who is reading this blog today is this. Creating rules around food, weight, exercise and looks don't help. These rules can't protect me or you from real life. I am not a better person because I eat a particular way... or weigh a particular amount... or whatever. I'm me. I'm enough just as I am. You are too.

The other week I desperately wanted to weigh myself. My sister's scales are stashed in the back of the bathroom cupboard; out of sight out of mind, it's not helpful for me to remember they are there. But I desperately wanted to pull them out and reassure myself (?!) about my weight. I came so close to doing it.

And then I remembered the Kind Over Matter post and I was able to step back and kind of boggle a bit at what I was doing. HOW was knowing my weight going to be reassuring? WHAT kind of value was I placing on a random, meaningless number? WHY was I going to let that number determine how I felt about myself? Good grief, I thought - this is RIDICULOUS.

So I didn't get out the scales. I still haven't. I'm still anxious about my weight. But the difference between me now and me even a couple of years ago is that I'm able to put this anxiety in perspective and let it hang around without acting on it. Most of the time, anyway.

If you have your own struggles with food... 

c\__/ have a look at the If Not Dieting, Then What? website (or get the book from the library, or even buy your own copy) - so helpful, totally sensible advice.
c\__/ the Oak House has made, and continues to make, a huge difference in my life.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Feeling Inspired: Making a Scarf!

I felt inspired to get out some of my wool stash and knit myself a new scarf - I am a bit over wearing the same old ones (much as I love them - they were my mum's, from like the 70s or something, and she gave them to me a couple of years ago).

At the same time I also had an epiphany where I FINALLY understood the purpose of the loop scarf or cowl-type scarf: Yes! It stays out of the way! If you wear scarves around the house like I do to try and keep warm, and you are also trying to cook or change a baby's nappy, you will understand why this is important. I felt like a lightbulb finally went on in my brain.

So I am going to attempt to sew the ends of my scarf together to make a loop, and see how that works. I'm knitting it on large needles, doubled (one ball of mustard yellow and one ball of very pale beige) and only 15 stitches wide so that it's quick. It's coming along nicely! This is what it looked like a few days ago:

It's quite a lot longer than that now - I'm on my second balls of wool - and I think I'm nearly done! I do hope it works.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Something Lovely

I always love reading Luisa's blog Dance In My Garden and the other day I saw her tutorial for making a natural linen freshener... Have a look!

I think I am going to mix up some of this myself - we could use a few hanging sachets in our uninspiring wardrobe. I don't have any rosemary to hand, but I think dried lemongrass might be a good alternative!

{EDIT to add: I just made up some of this, but instead of lemongrass as I mentioned above, I used a small handful of cloves... It smells divine! Going to cut up some muslin pieces to make some little bags now!}

Soapariffic Father's Day Giveaway

Father's Day is coming up soon in Australia and goodness me but Dads can be hard to buy for... at least mine is... but there is an opportunity to win a gorgeous gift from Inner Earth Soaps - three bars of beautiful handmade soaps in masculine scents:

The manly soap-pack includes:
~ Bloke Soap - made with beer
~ Kakadu Soap - lemon myrtle, eucalyptus & tea tree
~ Ocean Spa Soap - rosemary, lavender, lemongrass, mint & kelp

Doesn't it sound fantastic? I would love to win this for my Dad (or myself for that matter, although I might pass on the beer soap ;) ) - I am in fact using some of Erin's delicious Vanilla Buttercream soap in the shower at the moment. It smells as good as it looks!

 You can enter the giveaway here! Entries are open til Wednesday 18 August. Good luck!

Monday, August 9, 2010


I was reading through some of the recent posts on Zen Habits the other day and I came across these two:

The Clean-Slate Guide to Simplicity and How to Simplify When You Love Your Stuff

I love the idea of simplicity. I love the idea of having less stuff. Perversely, I do also have a lot of stuff, including stuff that I don't use, wear, read, like, or even remember that I have.

That's too much stuff, in that case, then, isn't it? But how to get rid of it? How to manage it?

I felt particularly confronted when I read this, in the 'How to Simplify' post:
7. You will know you are buying mindlessly if you:
  • Buy on a whim.
  • Buy to impress others.
  • Buy because you feel you deserve it.
  • Buy when you can’t afford it.
  • Buy just to update something that still works or looks fine.
  • Buy because someone else has it and you want it too.
  • Buy because the advertisement seduced you.
  • Buy because you are bored.
  • It’s purchased because buying soothes you.
I don't really think that I buy to impress others, or because someone else has it and I want it too, or because I am seduced by advertisements. But... because buying soothes me? On a whim? I'm bored? And even... because I feel I deserve it?

Ow. Those ones bit deep on a number of levels. I had to stop reading and come back to the article later. I felt ashamed. And a bit overwhelmed. The excess stuff that I know is lurking around has been haunting me for the last week or so. It is hard enough not buying things. Why is it also so hard to get rid of them?

On the one hand I want to hang onto some things for Pippin's sake. Like knick-knacky things... our glass paperweight collection for example. I don't think I would miss them if they weren't on our shelf, but I reckon he will have heaps of fun looking at and playing with those things when he's a bit older. (I remember how fascinated with my mum's sewing box and button collection and fabric stash I was.) Some old clothes will be good to hold onto for dress-ups. Should I start a 'Pippin stash' with things like these? What do you think?

Books and notes and things from my university days though, that I haven't looked at but have been hanging onto just in case... they could definitely go. So I am making a commitment to de-stuff my life a bit. Today I took the time to go through the boxes of crafty things that I have under my desk: sorted them into 'Christmas' and 'non-Christmas', tidied them, got rid of some stuff. I also did the 'clean-slate-email' thing and emptied out my gmail inbox. I don't have a backup drive so am a bit scared to try the complete computer reformatting thing!

Next will be the box of folders I have from my old public service job; I can pretty much guarantee I NEVER intend to look at them again.

After that, my old notes and books from uni.

And after that, the bathroom cabinets.

And after that, stuff on top of my desk (this is a scary one!).

And after that, my iPhoto library... yes it's only taking up space on my computer but it's driving me bananas how many useless photos I have on there.

And after that... well, that might do for the time being. I reckon I could get many of these tasks done in the course of the next couple of weeks. I'll let you know how I go! Do you have any helpful tips or advice for managing your STUFF??*

*and also possibly your husband's?? I'm feeling a ruthless cull of excess socks coming on.