finding the spirit

speculaas- cityhippyfarmgirl

Nothing says it’s nearly Christmas time, quite like belting out Wham’s Last Christmas at the top of your lungs. While big hair, eighties clothing and a snowy white landscape aren’t really necessary this year; an enthusiasm for all things just a teeny bit cheesy are. With three little people grinning from ear to ear for encouragement, I plan to quietly soak all that Christmassy spirit well and truly up.

I wasn’t going to though, well not yet anyway. It all seemed a little too early still.

However, last years advent calendar was hung, and the boys were keen for the Christmas sticks to be draped and decorated. Pre-school carols were seeping in and had a funny way of sticking in my head all day. I also couldn’t avoid the fact that everyone else was well and truly already on the Christmas wagon.

What pushed Last Christmas on to replay was the very real thought of my little people becoming big people. No longer finding it quite as exciting to decorate some fallen sticks with some brightly coloured baubles and their bunk beds with draped silvery tinsel. The excitement of seeing what might be in the advent calander in the early morning, and the planning of all the things they would do, once the Christmas holidays began. I know that contagious excitement will someday fade, as their limbs get longer and their childhood thoughts and ideas change.

So while their little dancing legs are eager, their air guitars await and theres a willingness to sing all songs Christmassy, then so will I.

And I’ll love every second of it.*

 * In the spirit of Christmas, so will all my neighbours. It’s a well known fact that Last Christmas should never be played quietly; and living in a small city apartment, well playing something with Christmas enthusiasm means everyone gets to enjoy it as well. Now THAT’S the spirit of Christmas.

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speculaas-cityhippyfarmgirl

For added Christmassy goodness, I’ve been making speculaas again. It’s been two years since the intermittent light swearing incident over the little wooden windmill and, this year I thought I’d try my luck again. Alas, still not to a standard I like, so no windmills again this year. However, the dough I’ve tweaked a little and it’s still a happy biscuit to eat.

Perfect for a little dunking, munching or sending of small parcels off to the neighbours.

Speculaas #2

150g cubed cold butter

150g brown sugar

300g plain flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cardamon

2 tbls cold water

Pulse all ingredients except the cold water, until resembles bread crumbs. Turn out to a board, add the water and give a quick knead to bring it all together. You are a after a smooth dough consistency. Roll out between two sheets of baking paper and pop into the fridge to firm up (or roll into a log and freeze for a later date.) Cut out shapes and bake at 180 for 15-20 minutes.

bottled water

Some useful links…

Go Tap- lots of reading on the environmental impact of bottled water, opinions and stats.

Cheeki Stainless Steel drink bottles

The Story of Bottled Water- (same creator of ‘the story of stuff’)

“Drinking water in Melbourne or Sydney costs around $1.20 a tonne,” says Mr Kiernan. “Australian bottled water costs around $3000 a tonne. And Italian bottled water? About $9000 a tonne. It’s more expensive than petrol…” The Age article.

soap nuts

soap nuts

little cotton bag you put them in

Soap Nuts


So what are they?

“Soapnuts ( Sapindus mukorossi ) are an environmentally friendly, sustainably produced, bio-degradable and compostable alternative to commercial laundry detergents. Grown wild in India, for centuries these nuts have been used for many purposes, from laundry to cleaning jewellery and treating contaminated soil. They are most widely recognised as being an effective and environmentally friendly natural detergent, but can be used for a wide variety of other uses.” New Internationalist

Do they work?

Yep, they do. The clean just as well as any other laundry liquid I was using. There is no lingering soapy smell. There is a tiny and pleasant clean, fresh smell when I first get the washing out of the machine. You have to really stick your nose in the fibres to get it though and nothing residual once the clothing as dried. They also leave everything quite soft. No need for any fabric softners, (if you use it.) There is a really great indepth post here comparing the nuts with regular washing powder. The Monkeys don’t play neatly, and it manages to get all the grime off their clothes.

How expensive are they?

Not all. You only need to use 6-8 of the nut shells in a load and then they are then re-used for another 4-6 times. All you need to do is dry them out in between washes and peg the little bag up when you dry your laundry. So the 500gm bag lasts for ages. New Internationalist (where I got mine) claims they will last for about 6 months doing about 200 loads. That seems to be fitting in with how I’m using them too.

What do you need to do?

Put 6-8 shells in the little bag (3 are included) pop it into some hot water for a minute (I stick a bowl of water in the microwave) and then put the bag and water in with the load of laundry.

Is it too much of an extra effort to do it all the time?

Nope, not all. A minute to warm the water, and a few seconds to empty the bag to dry it and the shells. Super easy.

Can you use them for anything else?

I’ve only used them for laundry, but you can apparently use them instead of regular shampoo, hand wash, cleaning jewellery and pest control in the garden.

What to do with them when you are finished?

They can go in the compost or used as mulch in the garden.

Any problems?

No problems for me. I’ve been really happy with them, and will keep using them.

Some places to find them

new internationalist Australia

Wildsoapnuts.com Australia

www.soapnuts.co.uk

landshare Australia

Last year some time I wrote about communal gardens and roof top vegetable patchs in the city. From there I was put on to the organisation Landshare in the UK, brought together by River Cottage (Hugh Fearnly- Whittingstall). That in turn led me to the Australian Landshare project, which hadn’t yet launched…(still with me?) Well now it has launched. It’s off and racing and needs peoples support for it to be as successful as the original one.

So what’s it all about?

“Landshare Australia brings together people who have a passion for home-grown food, connecting those who have land to share with those who need land for cultivating food. The concept of Landshare began in the UK, launched through the River Cottage television program in 2009, and has since grown into a thriving community of more than 57,000 growers, sharers and helpers across the country. Now that Landshare is here in Australia, we welcome you to come and take part in this fantastic initiative.”

Landshare is for people who:

  • Want to grow vegetables but don’t have anywhere to do it
  • Have a spare bit of land they’re prepared to share
  • Can help in some way – from sharing knowledge and lending tools to helping out on the plot itself
  • Support the idea of freeing up more land for growing
  • Are already growing and want to join in the community

Landshare Australia

Chocolate cards

(I’m going to stick with the gift theme for another post.)

This is a household that consumes rather a lot of chocolate. Not any old chocolate, but still vast quantities of the dark and luscious food of the gods. With that large consumption, comes wrappers. A lot of them.

So with all those wrappers accumulating, I started to collect them and turn them into things. The chocolate of choice that we generally buy is Whittakers, and the wrapping of it really is lovely to begin with, dark and gold with a lovely picture. First came the birthday card and then came the wrapping paper.

For the birthday cards, most people haven’t even realised it was once a chocolate wrapper. I match it with a couple of other coloured papers and card, then stick it down. For the wrappers, they are all just stuck together to make whatever size I need.

I really love beautiful wrapping paper, but hate to see it being ripped and torn as a present is opened. I either see it as part of the present itself or like to see it as something that can be more easily discarded. I was always one of those annoying kids who carefully peeled back the tape on a present, not ripping and then gently refolding the paper for another use. People would go to sleep while waiting to see their gift unwrapped.

I hope people don’t think I’m just being cheap when I give it. As I really do think it looks good and it’s something to do with all those wrappers….I could cut back a bit I guess on the buying and consumption…but nah, that’s not going to happen any time soon.

Why don’t I grow food in pots?

Why don’t I grow food in pots?…

It really is a good question. I live in a flat, I have many pots that are empty and ready to be used. I certainly have the inclination. But…

I have been down this road several times before. So much so, that I have spent quite a lot of money on organic potting mix, seeds, seedlings, and pots. I have trawled the streets with my kids on the look out for pots during council clean up periods and still nothing to show for it. When we first moved in here I started off all gung ho and with lots of ideas of harvesting from all my bountiful pots.

What went wrong?

Not enough sun light in the court yard? Too much rain? Not enough rain? Then when they did flourish so did the slugs and caterpillars. A true feast for them!

So after numerous occasions of trying, it has just got the point where I am putting way too much money in to the potting project and just have to admit defeat. So for the time being I will stick to my succulents and my window box flowers that are supposed to be attracting good bugs and bees….

… just not at the moment.

City hippy worm girl?

I was at playgroup this morning and someone started asking me questions about worm farms, what to put in and what not to. I did for a split second think thats a bit weird, I don’t know you, no one was talking about worms, an odd conversation to start up but hey. I knew the answers so, happily told her what the little fellas like to eat. When I was finished, she said,

“I knew you would know the answers”

“why? Do I look like the wormy type?”

“yes, you do”.

Now, I thought this was really funny. A small part of me thought I should be a little offended, but the rest of me just had a good chuckle and thought ‘city hippy farm girl’ in mind and body.

I was wearing plaits…does that make a difference?