It’s dark outside
and everyone is asleep,
except for one
One who is cutting, stamping and tying,
now what do I need again?
brown paper for jam jar tops
scissors I’ve had for 26 years
new stamps to play with from here
recycled glass jars
and the afternoon before of a hot sticky kitchen, making jam
gifts ready to go
and a bed that is calling
What are you making at the moment?
* linking into the inspiring My Creative Space
Nearly the end of the year again, which means there could be a little gift giving to be had. I love this time of year, but I don’t like the ridiculous amount of spending that usually goes along with it. You don’t have to spend oodles of money, you really don’t. Here are a few ideas to help with a greener tinged Christmas at your place this year.
1/ Tiny presents of tiny succulents in tiny tea cups, (or espresso cups as this little fella is.) You can easily do this with a little cup that may have a chip or a crack in it- stalk op shops, church fetes, roadside discards for succulent holding inspiration. The options are limitless, (have a peek at google images.) Think green, think succulents.
2/ Something for the inspired reader in your life- Changing Gears: by Greg Foyster
3/ Assistent Original- now this is a pricey gift for Christmas, but if you are serious about a kitchen investment that is going to cater for every kitchen whim you have- it’s a worthy investment, as cooking from scratch is a commitment and you want to make it as easy as possible. For bread baking nerds, look no further.
6/ Sign a bloggy friend up to do Blog with Pip- they will love you to the moon and back, (and probably back some more; this course is AWESOME.)
7/ If you don’t have a crafty hand yourself, have wander over to etsy- Buy direct from someone who does and support a small time crafter with a passion for handmade goodness.
8/ Sign a loved one up for a Milkwood Permaculture course, (or a locally grown Permaculture course in your area.) They will be brimming with inspiration afterwards, and that…is always a good thing.
9/ For the tea drinker- love chai, love tea, enamel cup and a little ginger bread bites for dunking in. A simple present that is 542 times better than buying something bland in a generic department store.
10/ Or using the same gingerbread recipe, kid version style.
11/ Put together a little handmade food hamper. Jam’s, biscuits, brownie, cake, pesto, bread- the options are endless. If you team that up with a little second hand store basket (50c church sale thank you very much!) and you’re in Christmassy business, (always nicer than a gifted pair of synthetic, made in China, novelty boxer shorts…promise.)
12/ And if you still aren’t sure of what Uncle Roo and Aunt Bilby would like, make a donation on their part. There are so many charities to choose from in our collective corners of the world- choose one and your recipients will be so very thankful.
For previous years eco Christmas gift ideas and wrapping see
I’m trying to remember to do quite a few things at the moment. Lists are being made, crossed off, lost, restarted, and scribbled upon. The end of the year where everything comes to a halt. Classes are finishing, teachers are changing, christmas decorations have been hung and there is a buzz in the air that is beginning to mount. But not before I go through my multiple lists.
Thank you biscuits for the dance teachers.
Thank you biscuits for the soccer teacher.
Thank you biscuits for the school teacher.
Goodbye biscuits for the school class.
Christmas biscuits for the neighbours and friends.
Now if only I could remember to take them when I go and see them.
This year we’ve done the festive bundle of sticks again. It feels right. Fifteen minutes of collecting fallen sticks from outside, held together by a ribbon and then decorated by the boys. Simple, environmentally friendly, space saving, and most importantly….I can put it up high. If I didn’t, little fingers would be breaking off everything she could and jamming it into her mouth for a little stick flavoured snack.
How about you?
Working your way through any lists? Anyone else doing Christmas sticks this year?…and sunflowers, aren’t they beautiful.
There is something about seeing them that just puts a smile to the face and a little dance in the toes. Seeing them in unlikely places, like a city side street… just makes them even sweeter.
My loved grandparents came to visit… and there were Double Ginger Bites.
The girls came to visit for a little cake and coffee by candle light… and there were Double Ginger Bites.
A little Christmas package was sent…and there were Double Ginger Bites.
I was hungry, and dinner seemed like a terribly long way off…and there were Double Ginger Bites.
Double Ginger Bites
125 grams softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 beaten egg
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup golden syrup
4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tps cardamom
3 cups plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
100g chopped uncrystalised ginger
Mix wet ingredients together. Mix dry ingredients together. Mix them all together. Knead it a little on a floured surface, mixing in the chopped ginger until you get a smooth dough. Let it rest in the fridge a bit until firm, then roll out dough 5mm thickness (or thicker if you prefer) and cut into rough squares and lay on lined baking tray.
Bake at 190C for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until light golden.
local honey- use as a face wash and natural exfoliant, stirred into your morning chai, or drizzled over toast
box of homemade biscuits (recipe below)
gift tag card made up from a dried pressed flower
lunch date voucher- favourite packed picnic lunch
giant gingerbread person in a crocheted pocket
jar of homemade almond pesto
gift wrapping- I’ve talked about using old maps as wrapping paper before. This particular one was gold, as I had found an unwanted old atlas on the street that someone had lazily put out there. At first I was dismayed at the thought of it sitting out there unwanted and unloved, getting rain damaged. We certainly didn’t need another atlas… then I remembered wrapping paper. Sure it was a bit sad that I was cutting into this large beautiful book, but I was certainly better than just going in the recycling bin which is where it was headed. Team it up with some wool to hold the folding in place, and no tape is necessary.
For more wrapping ideas, have a look at this rather awesome site on furoshiki, other wise known as the Japanese art of fabric gift wrapping.
(For last years 12 eco friendly Christmas gift ideas, see here.)
Coconut Strawberry Hearts
250g softened butter
1 cup (220g) sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp coconut essence
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
3 1/2 cups (525g) plain flour
Cream butter and sugar together in a mixer until pale. Add vanilla, coconut essence and egg, then mix through rest of ingredients. Lightly knead biscuit dough and roll between two sheets of baking paper to about 5mm. Pop into the fridge for an hour or so until firm, and cut out to shapes. If the dough comes back to room temperature while you are still cutting, being tricky to handle, just pop it back into the fridge for a bit.
Bake at 170C for approximately 15-20 mins, a very light golden colour. Allow to cool and then add half a teaspoon of strawberry jam in between the two biscuits.
Eat two immediately to see if they are ok to gift. Yep? Ok, should be good to go.
For a similar recipe see Coconut Jam Drops.
I was supposed to make these last year, but that didn’t happen. This year it is though. The tasty spiced biscuits generally eaten for the Feast of Saint Nicolas, (Dec 5th or 6th- depending on whether you come from Belgium or the Netherlands) that taste rather good dunked into your beverage of choice.
SBS’s Feast magazine has had two recipes for them recently (September and December issues) and both varying slightly with their quantities and ingredients. I stuck with the simpler version and then have since tweaked it to suit me more. These are a really great biscuit to roll up and keep in the freezer, to be cooked at a moments notice. Give as gifts, and also a good excuse to go find yourself a speculoos plank. Yes indeed, a speculoos plank. Even the name is enticing and it’s one of those funky little wooden moulds to pop your biscuits in before baking.
The thought had entered my head, and there wasn’t a whole lot of persuading of that thought, that it wasn’t something I really needed. An investment in my future I rationalised. I’ll be making loads of these down the track. I’ll start a new tradition of making them every 6th of December for the family and for many years of Christmas presents to come.
See, of course it makes sense to buy one from Belgium for a friend to bring back with her on her travels in several weeks time.
That was almost the case and then I found out there is a little online Dutch store, that has them and can post straight away. Being an Australian based company this was going to be a whole lot quicker, (bought on Friday night, arrived on Monday morning- thank you Australia Post.)
So now what to do with my cute little wooden windmill mould?
Everything I had read on the internet said these were a bit of a pest to use initially when they were still new. One site helpfully suggested some ‘light swearing’ might be useful. On trying the mould out, I would suggest intermittent heavy swearing wouldn’t go astray either. I had made the dough quite a few times, I was happy with the taste and the way they could easily be cut from a log, baked and eaten. They were an easy biscuit to make in that form. Using the mould however…
First, it was new,so I needed to grubby is up a bit. Using rice flour to line it certainly helps and after quite some time of working out what works best accompanied with multiple pursing of lips, eyebrow frowns, and the odd whispered intermittent heavy swear word. It worked.
Hooray! Biscuit dough back in the fridge to firm up again and then baked. I did it, speculaas have been conquered.
Baked for 15-20 minutes until golden and then out they come. Speculaas not conquered.
They look different to the un-moulded ones. All that fiddling with the mould before they get baked has caused the butter within to melt a bit, despite firming them up again before baking it, the dough has changed the consistency some what. How do I get them in without that small amount of melty action? The distinct windmill print looks a little more like a chewed dog ear now.
So I kept playing and fiddling, using a knife instead of my fingers to get the dough in and moulded around. The final verdict? The biscuit dough recipe is tasty, easy, and praticle. It works really well for rolled and cut circles, or simply rolled out and cut with a regular biscuit cutter.
I don’t think it’s the right recipe for the mould however, (unless you are happy with the chewed dog ear look, which in that case is fine.)
So I’ll keep playing and tweaking. In the mean time, at least I have something to nibble on while I do so.
adapted from SBS Feast Magazine recipe- Dec edition
250g (1 2/3 cup) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g brown sugar
50g muscavado sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, cloves
150g cold cubed butter
2 tbls cold water
Process all dry ingredients until mixed well. Then add butter and process again until it resembles bread crumbs. Mixture into a bowl and add 1-2 tbls of cold water. Give it a quick knead, bringing the mixture together to form a smooth round ball, divide into two logs. Wrap in plastic and into the fridge until it firms up, (over night is good, to let that spices infuse properly.) Or roll into log forms, and pop in the freezer for later use.*
For baking, cut rounds off on to a tray and bake….
If you have a mould. Cut small rounds off and press the mixture into a rice flour dusted wooden mould. Fiddle with it until you work out the best method to get them out and then let me know how you can do all this and not let the butter in the dough change consistency.*
* Or simple roll mixture out and use regular biscuit cutters to get a shape that you like.
* They are still perfectly acceptable to be eaten, dunked and given away as gifts in this way.
An extra thought- I think the flour to butter ratio needs to be changed a little for using the mould properly… maybe. I’ll keep tweaking anyway and see what I come up with.
We seem to be heading towards the pointy end of the year and with that usually comes a little gift giving. I love making or giving something that I know can either be consumed, passed on, recycled, is environmentally friendly or upcycled in some way. In giving gifts like this though, you usually have to think a little bit before hand. So no shopping on Christmas Eve for me. (Anyway, I would rather be eating my 10th rum ball and reading Christmas bed time stories to The Monkeys.)
So a few rehashed ideas, in a listy form.
Idea: attach an antique teaspoon with some string to the side.
A plate of various biscuits for Grandma Esme and Uncle Pollywaffle?
Idea: A plate of biscotti and some beautiful fairtrade tea.
Buy a plate or dish second hand from your local op-shop/thrift shop/charity shop. Beautiful one off antique ones can bought for usually just a couple of dollars.
An afternoon outing, exploring your local botanical gardens or national park with a picnic? Make an IOU card. Can be used for any ages.
A visit to the local zoo for your nephew Buster? A present doesn’t have to be a ‘thing’ it can be an experience.
maybe a Keep Cup for the coffee fiend from work? No more annoying mounting up disposable coffee cups in the bin.
Some bubbles for the triplet girls- Aoli, Bellini, and Chia and how to make your own.
Lots of scraps of fabric? Get quilting. There is probably a beautiful new baby that could use a little quilted change mat. Or maybe some new oven mits for the kind lady down the road who keeps baking fabulous brownies and leaving them on your door step.
Some different ideas for wrapping some of those gifts. Gift wrapping doesn’t have to be the conventional rip it up kind.
…and perhaps a card to go with it?
Chocolate wrapping cards. There’s a damn good reason to go buy some of that fairtrade chocolate you saw on special.
or maybe just a simple gift tag?…
Gift tags can made from old cards, cereal boxes, biscuit boxes or just a beautiful old photo.
Lots of possibilities… now go have fun creating and giving.
Gift tags are such a simple thing to make. You can upcycle so many things to make instant eye catching tags that re-cycle something, look pretty good and don’t cost anything. Scissors, a hole punch and imagination are all that’s needed.
Christmas cards are a great thing to chop up, (thanks to Tricia for the point in the right direction with this one). Just make sure there is no writing on the other side.
Gift to match: Anything Christmassy.
Cereal boxes. I know that sounds a bit odd, and it would depend on what cereal you buy maybe… but with the right gift, I think it works.
Gift to match: Jar of muesli/granola, box of muffins.
Chocolate wrappings. Ok, this isn’t going to work if it’s a mars bar. But if you are buying some tip top chocolate once in awhile, it seems a shame to spend all that money on some delicious chocolate, for it not to get a second go doesn’t it? (See this post, on how to make wrapping paper and cards from chocolate wrappers.)
Gift to match: Anything, it looks a bit different.
Biscuit/Cookie boxes. Again, maybe not for any old box, but given the right one and it can look rather interesting I think. I was given these as a gift and loved the box so much it just sat there empty for a few months on a shelf. The Monkeys had been told to keep their little mits off it until I had decided what to do with it.
Gift to match: Something lovely.
So many things can be turned into a gift tag, or used as a small card. Perfume boxes, old calendars, pasta boxes… lots and lots of things to have fun with and give a new life to.