Bottle Cleaning Sponge Beans

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Having a brother that travels to Japan certainly has its perks. The kids get Pokemon cards, and I get Bottle Cleaning Sponge Beans. Now what on earth are they? I might hear a few of my loyal readers whisper? Well if you haven’t encountered the handy kitchen edamame bean before, allow me to show you.

Basically it’s a bottle cleaning device, (that I love to bits.) Cleaning bottles with a narrow neck can be a bit tricky, especially when I’m brewing things like kombucha. I don’t strain it before bottling, so the floaty bits can get stuck on the side, making it tricky to clean.

Enter the cleaning beans. Pop one in, add some hot water and shake it like Taylor Swift.(There are two ceramic pea sized balls within the spongey casing which act as a slight abrasion. Also a hole on one end if you need to add some string to retrieve it for a longer necked bottle.)

And that’s it, you’re done! Floaty caked on kombucha bits all gone and bloody brilliant they are!

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Now if you don’t have a kind younger brother getting these things for you from Japan, I would recommend looking them up and finding a local company that stocks them. 

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Squeezing creativity into the cracks of the day

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Chasing light, building ideas

and wearing boots.

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Busy weeks followed by a busy mind. Things have been a jumble of ideas, thoughts and words round here, I’m swimming through them, trying to work out what works and what doesn’t, (I’ve also been wearing boots.)

For a long time I thought being creative was fairly indulgent and something you did in your spare time. Then I realised I was wrong. So wrong.

For me being creative is like breathing. I need it. There aren’t massive chunks of creative time, so I squeeze it into the cracks of the day, in different ways, whenever I can.

Somedays it’s simply a different kind of slash on a sourdough. Another day it might be scribbled words in a notebook standing up at the kitchen bench. This week, I was chasing light with the camera. The kids didn’t need a second asking to be running outside, grabbing their scooters, as they flew out the door.

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What have you been up to this week? 

 

Best Ever Chocolate Muffins

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“Mama these are the BEST EVER CHOCOLATE MUFFINS!”

The pint sized food critique didn’t have a whole lot of chocolate muffin eating experience to go on, but I ran with her bold statement and have therefore named these, one egg- not crazy chocolatey- not super rich- easy peasy- lunch box muffins to be….the Best Ever Chocolate Muffins (some things in life you don’t need to argue about.)

Arguing against licking the spoon is also pointless, it’s a birth right for who ever is home with me when cakey kind of good things are being made.

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Best Ever Chocolate Muffins

1 egg

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

100mls grape seed oil

2 tsp vanilla

3 tbls cocoa powder

1/2 cup natural full fat yogurt

1/3 cup milk

300g (2 cups) self raising flour

In a mixer add egg and sugar. (If using an Assistent Original, medium speed for four minutes.) While mixing slowly drizzle the grape seed oil. Add vanilla, cocoa, yogurt and milk (low speed for one minute.) Add self raising flour and gently fold in.

Divide mixture into muffin trays and bake at 180C for approximately 25 minutes.

Eat with enthusiasm.

Does leading a simple life, really mean less clutter?

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Living small in the city with a family of five as I do, often means that our household can look well, ‘fairly lived in’. Cluttered, is another term that comes to mind, and rather consistently so I might add. Julie from Country Living by the Sea recently did a post on clutter and living simply, and just what it all meant to her. This got me thinking…Does leading a simple life really mean less clutter?

I too strive for a simple uncluttered life and yet, I never, ever seem to achieve it.

Despite being careful with what comes through our doors, constant reassessing of what is needed and wanted, ample op-shop giving away, secondhand selling and generally just being mindful of ‘stuff’ levels. It still seems to mount up.

So what makes up the bulk of our household clutter?

My kids play– that’s what they do best. Lego pieces, craft projects, cubbies of various blankets and cushions. It’s a steady stream that really is an indication of them having fun and using their imagination. Fun, it really can be cluttered.

I cook– my bench tops are full of proofing bread, fermenting foods, and seasonal foods ready to be turned into family meals for the day. In a small kitchen, of course this amount of activity is going to make things look cluttered. I don’t have a dishwasher, or cleaner…actually or an internal laundry. I make bread over a washing machine. Yep, things are going to look a little cluttered in the kitchen too.

Things need to be repaired– sometimes things break and need fixing, mending, a good looking over. Sometimes there isn’t enough hours in the day and these things slowly pile up. It doesn’t mean I want to throw it out, it means I will get to it when I can. Fixing piles can look cluttered.

No dryer– we don’t have a clothes dryer, that’s a conscious choice we have made. Our dryer is the clothes line so if it rains for consecutive days, well the clothing comes inside to dry. In a small unit this can get reminiscent of a commercial laundry, (actually no, a commercial laundry I’m sure would be more ordered…and the kids probably wouldn’t have turned the clothes rack into a cubby.)

Books– every book on our shelves holds a reason, a story, a purpose and a right. A right to be there. Books will always happily clutter up our household.

Extra stuff– Then there are the extras, the things that accumulate in order to be ready when they are needed. Things like glass jars and jam. I don’t make jam regularly, I make it in batches when the season tells me too, this means they have to be collected, and stored. Stacks of empty glass jars are incredibly useful but they can make things look cluttered.

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Now if I’m painting a blissful existence of excepting my small living clutter and embracing my full corners in our household, fear not. No it drives me crazy regularly, BUT I know that (after having a long hard think- thank you Julie) everything I’m surrounded by is part of living a life that I want to be doing, and I’m simply choosing to do.

I want my kids to have fun and play, sure sitting at a screen would be keep things neater but pffft to that. I want to keep cooking, baking, preserving, and no I don’t want a dishwasher. That all means the kitchen will remain ‘busy’ looking. The clothes rack will continue to be dragged out, the mending pile will surely grow and you might occasionally hear some whispered words coming from my lips.

Words to remind myself… that leading a simple life, really might not mean less clutter.

 

The lure of the shutter

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A recent morning at one of Sydney’s beautiful beaches.

What was different about this one though, I was meeting two others there to take pictures. Who else would be eager to get up in the dark part of the morning to take some snaps? These two rockin’ women- Jerusha and Rachael. I give a thousand thanks to social media for connecting me with others who also enjoy the lure of the shutter.

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If you are in Sydney and also enjoy the click of a shutter, Head On is currently running throughout May. If you haven’t been to see anything yet, I’d say hop skip and jump to your nearest gallery. The pictures are bloody amazing.

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ps. This is what happens when a wave catches you by surprise…whoosh!

Little Black Cow Farm

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There was a long sigh of utter contentment, leaning against the fence watching the sun come up. The kids were back at the house watching cartoons, and the smallest and her dad were snoring still in bed.

I’d set the eldest two up and then had quietly slipped out of the house. There was a sunrise to be had over those paddocks and I wasn’t about to miss it.

Staying at Little Black Cow Farm stay had been on the agenda for longer than I could remember. I’d often read Kim’s blog and wistfully planned long weekends away. Finally, after a generous invitation, I actually did.

Little Black Cow Farm stay is a 300 acre working beef farm in Branxton, Hunter Valley. Land of vineyards, photo opportunities and good food. The most glorious of foods. I’d set myself up with a little challenge for the weekend, to only eat as much locally produced food as I could get my hands on. Tricky? Stopping off at the local IGA before we got to the farm, I happily didn’t think it so.

In my basket I had Liberi eggs, Udder Farm Fetta, Udder Farm camembert, Udder Farm milk, sourdough from Morpeth bakery and organic wine from Macquariefields. If we only had dairy, bread and wine for the next three days…well, just quietly I didn’t think I would be complaining.

Settling into the farmstay, the kids are riding on the tractors and I get to quietly wander through the farm stay permaculture visitors garden. Kim has set it up so that her farm stay people can pick anything they want, and so I do.

Whenever I am home, my tiny potted garden brings me a lot of joy, but being here? In amongst the sprawling strawberry tendrils, the bushy parsley and the climbing snake beans I can’t help but have a few moments of ‘one day’ thoughts.

Squeals of delight and general loud kid conversation snapped me out of any ambitious garden plans. I was being ordered to jump aboard as the tractor had other people to pick up and the three year old driver couldn’t wait any longer for me.

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Dinner that night was a salad I had picked from the garden earlier, sausages from a few paddocks away, (Kim and David make their own which you can buy during your stay) and some of the bread and cheese I had hunkered away earlier. For dessert we had custard- made from the local cream, milk and eggs all done in a piece of kitchen kit, that I had often wondered about, but had never played with, (more on this in a minute.)

From a locavore point of view I was super happy. From a foodie point of view I was deliriously happy. From tired point of view, I was shattered… must have been that country air I suspect. Time to sleep.

A new day and there I was contentedly watching that sunrise. There are a few sure-fire things in this world that will always make my heart sing and watching the sunrise, has always been one of them.

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Back at the house and I start getting breakfast together. As I mentioned earlier there is a piece of kitchen kit, that is quite the rockstar of kitchen appliances for visitors to use, and I was keen to give it a crack. Was it really everything people raved about? Let’s find out.

Last night I had made custard in it, amazingly I hadn’t exploded anything, and the rockstar really had made perfect custard. This morning though I wanted to test it further, so butter was on the agenda with half a carton of cream left over from last night’s custard. Whoosh…done. Um, one minute that took. Hmmm, hard boiled eggs? Yep did that too. Coffee, why yes please. It is a weekend away after all, no coffee would be completely unaccceptable. Would the rockstar sort that one out? Yes, apparently so!

A wonderful day was spent doing weekend away kind of things. The kids got to harass the animals again, the adults got to talk, we went on a farm tour to the ‘top of the world’ and then suddenly dinner time was whispering again. I thought I would put the rockstar to the test once more. Thai Style Pumpkin Soup was on the menu, dicatated by what was in the garden. A simple soup, with all the ingredients (pumpkin, lemongrass, thai basil and a little chilli) being sourced just a couple of metres away.

Last day arrives and we farewell all the animals. We say goodbye to the dogs, goats, sheep, cows, pony, chooks and I peel small gripped fingers away from the guinea pigs, (I’m sure I heard them sigh with relief.)

I don’t think I have ever stayed somewhere that was so accommodating and involving towards kids and adults, every age was considered. Kim and David are the most wonderful hosts. From a welcome plate of homemade biscuits, kids toys, oodles of books, dvds, farm animals, climbable tractors, jeep tour, individual activities designed around your needs and wants. And one of the best things?…a perfectly edible (and encouraged to do so) permaculture garden at your doorstep.

It was the most relaxing weekend I’d had in a long time, and just quietly… I can’t wait to go back.

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Local Hunter Valley connections to be enjoyed

Little Black Cow Farm Stay– accommodation

Udder Farm– milk, cream, cheese.

Liberi Eggs- boiled, fried, scrambled or runny if you are one of those funny people who like runny eggs.

Morpeth Sourdough Bakery– locally baked sourdough…say no more.

Macquariedale Organic Wine- one glass or two?

Little Black Cow Farm Beef– these are happy beautifully kept cows that taste rather delicious in sausage form.

Sacred Tree Markets– on every third Sunday within the township of Branxton. 

Who gives a crap?

Last year we started getting this toilet paper. It’s good, it feels good buying it. And I don’t just mean on our bums either.

I mean it feels good for my soul buying it. I’m doing something, that is right and just. Something that helps so many others, just by me taking some control over where my purchasing dollars are going to.

Who Gives A Crap

I certainly do. That’s why I buy it

As an added bonus, the individually wrapped rolls are the start of 100 kinds of crafty hours. Whether it’s for you or your small people. I tell you, the different ways in which to play with empty toilet rolls, tissue paper, and a large box is limitless, (only limited by your imagination of course.)

At our house they’ve been made into binoculars, bowling essentials, flowers, people, they were briefly wrapped as presents last Christmas (yes, I so went there.) Pinhole camera accessories were lots of fun and more robots than I care to count. Kids don’t need expensive battery operated plastic toys to play. They need a box of toilet paper…that’s all, I’m sure of it.

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How about you? Have you used this company before, have you thought about it?

Do you Give a Crap?

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When you need to make a Chocolate Caramel Almond Tart

chocolate caramel almond tart || cityhippyfarmgirl

There was a birthday coming up and the order had been put in. Something chocolatey. It was a loose request that held lots of possibilities. Cake? Nah. I still hold some reservations on the old chocolate cake front, if I can avoid making one I certainly do.

Now this particular birthday request just had to involve chocolate somewhere along the lines of the dessert. Surely I could put something on the table that could be used in a celebratory, I’ve just turned another wonderful year older kind of thing.

I had a coffee, (it’s when I do my best thinking) and came up with a chocolate caramel tart. Doable, certainly doable I thought. Then I promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward several weeks and the day in question arrived. For lots of reasons I was a little distracted in the lead up to it and didn’t plan it in my usual military precision birthday sugary goodness celebratory fashion. Instead it was a little like… oh what’s in the fridge/cupboard, and can I whack it in to build up this tart?

And so that’s how almond meal ended up in there, (toasted mind you, I’m not a complete hack.) Tart got a thumbs up verdict and there were scrambles for the last tiny wedge.

Seems the unplanned Chocolate Caramel Almond Tart was ok.

chocolate caramel almond tart || cityhippyfarmgirl

Chocolate Caramel Almond Tart

Pastry

150gms softened butter

2 cups plain flour

2 tsp vanilla

1 egg yolk

* if you want your pastry sweet as well add 50gs of icing sugar, I thought there would be enough sugar in the caramel and chocolate layers.

In a processor add flour and butter, process until resembles bread crumbs. Tip mixture out to a bowl and add vanilla and egg yolk. Bring together and give a quick knead until it’s smooth. Roll between two pieces of baking paper, and roll out to about 5mm. Carefully place pastry in greased tart base and bake blind for approximately 25 minutes at 180C. Remove beads (or whatever you used to bake blind with and pop back into the oven for another 5 or so minutes or until golden.

Almond Caramel

1 cup condensed milk

1 knob of butter

2 tbls brown sugar

Put these three ingredients in a pot and stir over medium heat, until it turns to caramel. Don’t leave it, continually stir, should take about 4 minutes. (If you let it get too thick it will be harder to manage.)

In another pot over medium heat add 100g of almond meal, gently toast it. Stirring continuously until light golden. Add this to the caramel.

Add the almond caramel to slightly cooled tart pastry.

Ganache

300mls cream

300g dark chocolate

Bring the cream to a boil and then turn off heat. Drop broken chocolate into the cream and stir until melted through. Allow ganache to cool slightly and then pour over caramel tart. Allow to sit for a few hours before serving.

chocolate caramel almond tart || cityhippyfarmgirl

When it storms, I bake

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Gumboots and an umbrella weren’t really going to cut it over the last few days here in Sydney.

Sydney, Newcastle and the Wollongong area have all copped a battering, and while the storm has now lessened, the clean up is going to go on for a lot longer.

After adventurous soggy walks to school in the mornings, there wasn’t much else for me and the small one to do but batten down the hatches, read stories, and do what I can with not much food in the cupboard.

Thanks to bread baking being a wonderful part of my life… we certainly didn’t go hungry, (fetta and pesto sourdough scrolls).

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Some pictures of the storm can be found here.