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Twenty-Nine: Ceaseless Cabbage

To simplify our grocery shopping and to eat more seasonally, Simon and I have started ordering a fruit and vegetable box from Ceres Fair Food. We’ve both been super impressed with both the variety and the quality of the produce. For about a month, each week there was cabbage in the box. After weeks of cabbage soup, stuffed cabbage rolls and even a cabbage curry (it is a thing!) we were pretty sick of this member of the brassica family!

So, when we received a wombok cabbage we decided to get our ferment on make some kimchi. Of course, it meant that we had to buy a number of other ingredients in order to make this Korean side dish, but I anticipate that the end result will be well worth it.

Simon and I made this one a team effort as we had a social engagement to get to, so we really needed to stick to the 20 minute prep time of our recipe. The process is really simple, mostly comprising of slicing and food processing. I found it interesting to see how kimchi gets its red chilli coating, its a mixture of water and rice flour which you head and turn into a paste. You then add in gochugaru (Korean chilli powder) which gives it spice and the colour.

We were surprised with how much the recipe yielded, filling one large jar and two small/medium ones. After sitting on the bench for a few days to get the fermentation process started, we’ve since popped it in the fridge so it can ferment to our liking. I haven’t yet tried the Kimchi, but Simon has and he said it’s pretty good. I look forward to sampling with some Korean cuisine.

 

Twenty-Eight: Boxes

A while back we bought a new bed. It’s great, but we immediately  found that the cardboard boxes we had previously stored things in under the old bed were just a little bit too tall to fit. Annoying, but fixable. Our first thought was to look for plastic tubs that would fit under, but after a fair bit of looking around the closest we could find was still a couple of millimetres too big. Then I thought: I could build that!

So I measured up the space and drew up some boxes that would fit perfectly and maximise our storage. They’re a very simple construction, using cheap pine lining board I chiselled off one of the edges of the groove to allow for the base (with the added bonus of making the finished product look a lot neater). I then made a simple butt-jointed frame from the boards before dropping in the plywood base and stapling it in place. Here’s a diagram to help explain how the base is attached:

 

They worked great but because I had made them such a precise fit they were very difficult to grip and slide out; they needed handles. I had a look at Bunnings, but to buy enough for the 8 boxes we had made would cost way more than we had already spent to build the boxes. As luck would have it, people throw these things out, and after a few weeks of scoping out our local streets for sets of drawers in hard rubbish I had procured the requisite handles.

From this point some time has passed. We moved house and in the move a few of the bases dropped out from some of the boxes (turns out the staples we used were not long enough) and the handles still had not made it onto the boxes. One night last week we had a spare half hour and decided it was about time we finished these off. So out came the drill and the longer staples I had finally got around to buying. We got a bit of a production line going with myself measuring and drilling holes for the handles, and Zara re-stapling and installing the handles.

The original cutting and assembly of the boxes did take quite a bit of time, but between the two of us it wasn’t too bad and we now have some very solid, custom sized under-bed storage. 

Twenty-Seven: Savoury Character

By the end of winter I’m pretty over soup and am craving food that has crunch or at the very least, that I can chew.

Earlier in the week I cooked a meal that had egg yolks and omitted the white. I’m not a sweet tooth so wasn’t keen on whipping up a pav or some macarons. Instead, I threw together a batch of savoury granola to both use the egg whites (as a binding agent) and add that long desired crunch to what feels like a predominately pureed diet.

I’m not a stickler for recipes, so did a rudimentary google and picked the first recipe that popped up to get an idea of quantities and ingredients. From memory I threw the following ingredients in a bowl (I didn’t measure anything, so my quantities are just guesswork!)

  • 1.5 cups of oats
  • .5 cup of roughly chopped walnuts
  • .5 cup sunflower seeds
  • .3 cup of pepitas
  • .3 cup of seasame seeds (black and white)
  • 2 tbsp of poppyseeds
  • 2 tbsp of flaxseeds
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • Good grind of pepper
  • A pinch of fennel seeds
  • 2 egg whites
  • Couple of lugs of olive oil
  • One lug of maple syrup

I mixed it all together, popped it on a baking tray in an 180 degree oven for 30 minutes (stirring once halfway through), let it cool and popped it in a jar! Looking forward to sampling it with some soup in the coming weeks, or on top of some avocado toast.

Twenty-Five & Twenty-Six: Triple Threat

Two years ago when Simon and I got married and moved into our first home we inherited some dark green leather couches from my Nonna. After two summers of sticking to the leather and two winters of chilled bottoms we decided that when we moved we’d buy a new couch. I spent hours researching and finally we landed on a Freedom couch. She ain’t the belle of the ball, but she’s quite practical and good looking enough to keep around (a bit like myself ;)).

We moved in May and since then, whenever I’ve looked at the cushions they’ve made me terribly uncomfortable as they do not coordinate with our decor at all. Naturally, I decided to make some cushion covers.

It is a bit tricky to describe the style of our house, but there’s a lot of timber, green, orange and already a bit of pattern (hrmmm…sounds quite 70’s).  So I didn’t want to add more busyness to the space by incorporating more colour or pattern. Thus, I decided to stick to natural tones and used what I’m referring to as a craft triple threat, sewing, weaving and crocheting to fashion the cushions. I utilitiesed calico and some camel suede I had in my fabric draw and added texture using weaving and crocheting.

(Top left: suede, right: crochet & bottom left: weaving)

Being the inner city hipster that I am, Simon got me a handloom for Christmas from Loom and Spindle so I started weaving to use as a textural piece. I found some lovely ivory chunky wool at an op shop and used both basic and soumak weave stitches to create my fabric. As it was my first proper go at weaving, I didn’t quite get my tension right and the piece was warped. I also knew the weaving would be too small for the pillow inserts I had, so devised a plan to put it inside a border of the camel suede with a calico backing.

I cut out the pieces of suede to create the border and when I laid it all out, it was NQR…there was too much going on. Calico was a much more complimentary fabric, so I cut out what I need and got sewing, making the back suede instead of the calico I had intended to use. Rather than wasting the strips of suede I cut out, I sewed them together along the long edge and used them (again, along with some calico) to make another cover.

The technique I used for the third cushion cover was crochet. I used cotton shop twine from Bunnings to make a massive granny square. Fashioned a calico cover (front and back) and then stitched the granny square to the front – voila! The trio of cushions look fab on our new couch and I’m much more comfortable (both literally and figuratively). I may whip up another simple cover using the calico and the suede – stay tuned!

I’m going to be a little cheeky and class this as two projects as I used two distinct skills: weaving and crocheting.

Twenty-Four: Yarn Bowling

For Zara’s recent birthday I decided to get her a yarn bowl. A yarn bowl is a bowl that you put your skein of yarn in to allow it to pull freely as you knit (or crochet). I wanted to get something nice and vintage however I quickly discovered that most are either modern plastic rubbish or very expensive ceramic antiques. Neither really seemed right, so I thought I would make one.

Ceramic appeared to be a silly choice of material for something that I thought is so likely to fall to the floor at least once in its working life, plus it is a little out of my skill-set. So I settled on wood. As I have no lathe I went searching for a ready made bowl and got lucky at Savers where I found a perfectly sized wooden bowl.

A bit of research showed that many designs use spiral cut into the bowl for the yarn to run through, so my next step was to work out how to cut that. I borrowed my brother’s rotary tool thinking that’s what they’re designed for, but had very limited success (or no success really). With Zara’s birthday looming, and very little time to work on the project with her out of the house I needed a solution. Turns out in the days before cheap power tools people used coping saws for this kind of work, so after a quick stop at everyone’s favourite monopolistic hardware warehouse I was in business.

With the groove cut I thought a lick of paint would help with the final look, so on went a few coats of paint.

During this whole process I was a little worried about the weight of the bowl; it was very light and just didn’t feel like it had enough heft to stay still while yarn was being pulled. I really wasn’t sure how I was going to correct this. I thought I could add some weights of some kind recessed into the base of the wood, or put some kind of heavy metal disc onto the bottom as a kind of base but I couldn’t find anything that would be heavy enough and small enough to fit (let alone actually not look hideous).

Then on an impromptu trip to Savers I came across a great metal base to some object that had since been bought by someone else. I managed to purchase it while Zara was looking elsewhere and concealed it in a pocket until home.

It was a perfect fit and added a good bit of weight (and much needed flair). After a very fragmented building process I am pretty happy with the result, and Zara says she likes it, so that’s good too. Nothing like a hand made present.

Twenty-Three: Clothes-Line

Part of the reason we have been a bit irregular with our blog posting is that we recently moved to our new home in Brunswick. It is a lovely house, with an actual backyard (well, more of a courtyard really). Strangely there was no clothesline though, so I immediately began to mentally design a system.

The result is a cheap, high capacity and expandable system that is unobtrusive when not in use.

The main components are stainless steel eyelets and multipurpose rope (with a tracer colour in it to avoid accidents). I fastened the eyelets on the two side fences opposite each other, so when the rope is strung between them it spans the entire backyard. By stringing the line through the eyelets in the below configuration I can quickly use one length of rope to create 20 metres of clothesline.

This system is completely customisable; I can string up a single length, or two, or run the rope directly back across the yard twisting it around itself slightly to create a nifty way of hanging socks without needing pegs. It is also expandable by simply adding more eyelets and rope.

For a finishing touch I added a cleat hook on both sides of the yard to simplify tying off, as well as a hook for hanging the rope when not in use (the hook turned out to be way bigger than I needed and will probably be repurposed in a future project).

All in all I spent very little and got very much; totally worth it.

 

Twenty-Two: No Poo

 If you looked at these two photos and came to the assumption I would be writing about a cake I made, you’re mistaken. I did not bake with these two items, rather I made dry shampoo!

Washing my hair is at the top of my annoyances list (along with sultanas in curry) so if I can prolong this task, I will. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the feeling of clean hair. It’s the arduous task of getting to the clean, dry hair that gives me the irrites. If a genie jumped out of a lantern and granted me a wish, I wouldn’t be asking for a packet of Tim Tams that never ran out. Instead, I’d wish to have clean, silky, glistening hair until the end of my days without washing.

So unless I go down the no poo route (I kind of regret typing that), having methods to draw out the time between washes it is. In my quest to be more au natural (in relation to toxins, not clothing) making my own dry shampoo seemed like a good idea.

Ages ago, my bestie sent me a link to a recipe from Wellness Mama. The recipe has three ingredients which you combine together; arrowroot flour, cacao powder and essential oils. As the photos above demonstrate, I deemed the oils not essential and just mixed together the flour and cacao. I popped the sham in a small mineral make up jar I had. The jar has a few holes in the top so I can easily shake it upon my scalp and rub/brush it in.

I’ve found that this mixture seems to work really well for me and have used it for a number of months. My measures of success are: 1) I can go one day less without washing my hair and 2) I smell of cacao.

 

Twenty-One: Cordial Cordials

Zara and I recently held a small combined 30th birthday dinner with some of our friends. We were in need of some less alcoholic options for our guests to drink and after the success of my first cordial making attempt I thought I would try my hand at a couple more.

Zara’s lemon tree provided us with its first ever crop this year and our new house has a big orange tree out the front, so I thought an orange & lemon cordial would be a good option. After a bit of reading different recipes I sort of just made it up, mostly using this recipe as a base. Sadly I was in a bit of a rush when making it to record my recipe, but I’m sure I added a fair bit more juice than called for and also added a little bit of mandarin zest and juice as I thought the base recipe was a little lacking.

A few years ago I made a ginger syrup, so figured I would try that again, but this time used a recipe from Mary Blackie’s Great Australian Country Cookbook which I picked up in an op-shop recentlyish. It’s pretty straight forward, just cook up grated ginger and sugar in water. It makes a pretty zingy ginger flavour, but is still quite sweet; I think next time I’ll add some lemon juice to balance it out. It uses a fair amount of ginger, but if you keep the strained out cooked ginger you can use it for any number of other applications (we froze it and have since used it in Vietnamese ginger chicken and still have more in the freezer).

Both cordials were delicious, and while I attempted to make smaller amounts, I am not sad that there is a fair bit left over. Come summer I think I’ll try to make sure I’ve got a bottle in the fridge at all times, as they’re so easy to make and so very refreshing.

Twenty: Winter Warmer

When we went on holidays to Tasmania a few weeks ago I knew I’d need a beanie or two to keep my giant head warm. I packed my ole’ faithful green beanie that I’ve had for years and decided to take my crochet hooks and two skeins of black wool that I’d found at the op shop.  After trawling ravelry (an online knit & crochet community), I had shortlisted a few pattern options.

A few days into my holiday and sick of wearing my green number, I decided to get hooking and pulled out my tools. I grabbed both skeins of wool and found that they were not the same type of wool as I had thought, but two different skeins of different plys. My crocheting pursuit was thwarted.

Last year we became pretty obsessed with a TV show on the ABC called Rosehaven, which we found out was shot in a small town called Geeveston in the Huon Valley. Before leaving also discovered that the best sushi in Australia is in Geeveston, run by a Japanese bloke who settled there. My sashimi dreams weren’t to come true sadly, as the chef was in Hobart preparing food for the Dark Mofo Winter Feast. So, to be honest, my major motivator for heading to Geeveston was no longer.

One day, we were headed to the Hartz Mountains to do a walk and noticed that Geeveston was en route, so we decided to check out the town on the way. The town was quite quaint, with some great cafes, a community market happening and some wonderful craft shops. One shop was Stone Pippin, which exclusively sold yarn! I had a potter around the store and noticed some black hanks of yarn (yarn that is coiled or wrapped, not in a ball) in a basket. I had a dig around and found a hank of super soft Tasmanian Alpaca yarn and knew it had to adorn my head!

We got home and after turning the hank into a ball (using a spatula in our Air BnB) I got hooking. I changed the pattern I was originally going to use and decided instead on a beret….sadly I cannot find the pattern I used in my search history or from a trawl through ravelry. I remember that it was from an Australian blogger and that I used treble crochet stitches for the majority and double crochet for the band to keep it secure on my head.

The end result is pretty good, some of my decreases are a bit clumsy…but because it’s dark on my dark hair it is quite forgiving.  Practically, it is very warm and is keeping me cosy during this cold snap! Plus, its super soft and cuddly.

     

Nineteen: Nifty Napkins

Simon and I were both born in 1987, he in mid May and I in late July. Rather than throwing two 30th bashes, we decided to combine and had a small party with our closest friends in between our actual birthdays.

If you’ve been keeping up with our blog (unlike us, we are finally catching up  on our projects after a crazy two month) you’ll know that we try to avoid new. So, for our party we decided to theme it ‘Op Shop Formal’, using items purchased from op shops to decorate (subsidised by some hired items) and encouraged our guests to dress up in second hand threads.

The decor was pretty simple, we planned to have one long table and set up brass candle holders  in clusters down it’s length. I knew I wanted to introduce colour, so to do this decided to make napkins from fabric that I sourced from op shops (or my fabric stash!). We kept our eye out during our op shop trips over the months leading up and struck gold at Savers Greensborough, finding a combo of fabrics and tablecloths in a blue/white/yellow/mustard colourway. From here, I collected a few other pieces of fabric from oppies and grabbed some blue and yellow thread to use in the overlocker to finish the edges.

Once I had enough fabric to make enough napkins, I got out my scissors and found a napkin we had at home to use as a size guide. I tried my best to make the most out of each tablecloth or length of fabric with my cutting and did an okay job, but could have probably gotten a few more napkins cut out if I was a bit more focused! In the end I cut out about a dozen more napkins than I needed, so it wasn’t an issue I cut inefficiently, but I was still annoyed about the wastage. So, I chucked the offcuts in our rag bag to use when we’re cleaning.

When everything was cut to size I got overlocking, it’s such a speedy way to edge something. Given a bit more time I may have properly hemmed the napkins, but time is a precious resource at present!! Plus, I somewhat liked the extra colour and detail the overlocked edges added.

Setting up for the party and placing the napkins reminded me of why I love events and theming, it’s such a rush executing and seeing the vision you had in your mind come to life! The table was set, waiting for our guests and it looked fabulous! We had a great night celebrating with our friends and I’ve put the napkins away with the hope I’ll use them again in the future.

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