A garden to die for AND a giveaway

foxglove patch- Ecolosophy

Today I would like to introduce you to Tanya from Ecolosophy. I haven’t met Tanya, as she lives on the opposite side of the country. If I did meet her though, I’d probably give her a feet lifting off the ground kinda hug, deposit some sourdough on her bench top and then run through her kitchen, (being careful not to slam the back door of course) scurry down the back steps and then face plant into her garden.

Have you seen her garden? If you have, you’ll know that it’s face plant worthy. This is the kind of garden that gets featured in magazines. This is the kind of garden that dreams are fuelled on, (inclusive of mine!) This is…ok, you get the picture. I’m in love with her garden and before I share anymore of my love for it. I thought I would share a little Q+A that we had.

Salmon Beach- Ecolosophy

1/ Tell me about your garden and what you have growing at the moment. I’ve seen snippits in Earth Garden and there is a little garden envy on my part!

Ha! Well bear in mind, I only take pictures of the pretty bits! Our block is 10 acres and rented. Mostly we aim to keep it maintained so it’s not too snaky but we do have some lovely bushy bits where we hunt for wildflowers and orchids. The garden you’ve seen in Earth Garden is our vegie patch. We shower and wash in salty bore water so we can give this area all our fresh rainwater. We have built raised garden beds from whatever we could salvage locally and filled them with manure and pea hay and compost.

I do the herbs, my partner does the vegetables (except tomatoes, they’re my thing) and we often lock horns over real estate in the patch. Luckily herbs are tough and a little bit sneaky so slowly and quietly, they’ve inserted themselves into any available crevice. As time goes by I’ve noticed that more are left to do their thing and less are getting evicted. My eldest son has also started infiltrating the patch with his love of flowers, so the patch, which began as a rigid, productive, straight row kind of vegetable garden, has evolved into a crazy and haphazard explosion of colour, a bee paradise, a worm farm, a science lab, a classroom and a grocery store, an open air gym for both vigorous workouts and low impact yoga, an oasis of peace and an avenue for artistic expression. 

2/ You’re going on family picnic on the weekend, what food will you take?

Our weekend picnics generally involve the beach and the boys bring lemon, flour, salt, pepper and grand plans to catch our food and live off the land. Now, I don’t like to show a lack of confidence, but I also don’t like to go hungry, so I usually slip in a few chicken and vegie quesadillas… just on the off chance, y’know?

Bailer + Fish- Ecolosophy

3/ Ecolosophy is an online store you run with your business partner Rose. Can you tell me a bit about your background and why you started it. 

Well my background is in horticulture, herbal medicine and retail, Rose comes from urban design and sustainability. We’ve long been friends but a couple of years ago we started day-dreaming together about our ideal enterprise. Ecolosophy evolved from that. We wanted to create a business that could not only sustain us but also makes the world a better place. We selected our range in the Ecolosophy shop adhering to an eco criteria and our blog is a multifaceted exploration into green living. Although we currently live in a small town and grow a lot of our own food and keep chooks, we’ve also lived in built up urban environments and faced all the challenges of being eco in the city. We’re actively involved in our local community and as the business grows we hope to engage in more social enterprise as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

4/ If you are putting together a package for someone that wanted to reduce their environmental footprint, what would you put in there to kick start their efforts.

Here’s my five eco things that I wouldn’t be without now.

  1. My jute string shopping bag, just like your nanna used. It’s lightweight, strong and expands to fit heaps in. It lives in my handbag and I use it at every shopping expedition.
  2. My Keep Leaf Produce bags, because really, why do we need to keep wrapping our vegetables and loose bulk goods in those stoopid little plastic bags?
  3. My bamboo toothbrush. The more I learn about plastic, the less of it I want to own…and I definitely don’t want any in my mouth.
  4. I can proudly say it’s been two years since I gave up cling film… how so you ask? These beeswax and hemp food wraps are awesome and have helped bridge the fridge gap with food covering.
  5. Who Gives a Crap… I can’t go on enough about this loo roll so excuse the shameless sales pitch…it’s good for your bum, great for the world! The lovely guys at WGAC have created the cutest, 3 ply toilet paper that is 100% recycled with no chlorine, inks, dyes or scents. They donate 50% of their profits to the charity Wateraid which means that every roll you buy is helping to build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world. If all that isn’t awesome enough, these rolls are so pretty, you’ll be itching to display them in the smallest room in the house. You’ll be hooked -check out their website whogivesacrap.org to organise a subscription to get these super cute rolls delivered to your door.

Ocean Toes- Ecolosophy

5/ Last meal on earth. What are you eating, who is there and where are you?

It’ll be just my boys and I, camping with the bush at our back and the beach in front of us. A crackling fire will warm our sandy toes and the night sky above us will be sprinkled with stars… experience tells me we’ll probably be eating quesadillas!

cityhippyfarmgirl giveaway- Ecolosphy

Now the lovely ladies at Ecolosophy have put together an eco-hamper giveaway for one lucky duck reader to crank up their eco-journey. Ecolosophy is offering a hamper containing their top five, favourite eco-products for one lucky subscriber. All you need to do is enter the code-word cityhippyfarmgirl into the special instructions box in the shopping cart when making a purchase at the Ecolosophy shop during 2014, for a chance to win.

(And now coming back to my running face plant back in to that magnificent garden… anyone else want to join me?)

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Visit the Ecolosophy website for more info including terms and conditions

Jump on over to more of their eco goodness on the Ecolosophy blog or social pages Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

 

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Rose and Pistachio Biscuits (and knowing when to outsource)

rose and pistachio biscuits || cityhippyfarmgirlrose and pistachio biscuits || cityhippyfarmgirl I’ve always felt a little guilty at out sourcing my mum’s Mothers Day gift when I was 9 years old. As she unwrapped the very special puffy coat hanger I’d selected for her, she asked with impressed (and clearly overwhelmed with love for her talented daughter) eyes.

Did you make it?!

Er no… I said a little awkwardly, (visibly watching my mothers overwhelmed with love feeling quickly deflate) Ginny did.

You see, I’d spent my hard earned silver coins on a puffy coat hanger that my friend had made. Which I had then bought for my mum on Mother’s Day. Sure I could have made it, but I didn’t. I’d outsourced.

Now while my puffy coat hanger buying days are probably behind me, the odd bit of outsourcing isn’t, (especially if it’s someones lovely recipe to be made.)

I’d had been thinking about the combination of rose and pistachio for a little while but it hadn’t gone any further than that. Just the thinking.

Reaching for my trusty friend google and lo and behold, He Needs Food has a Rose and Pistachio Biscuit Recipe and it looks precisely to my baking liking.* The pictures are gorgeous, the recipe is easy and on baking, they present beautifully. Just the thing for Mothers Day, (that’s if you weren’t already giving puffy coat hangers.)

Thanks John, cracker of a recipe.

rose and pistachio biscuits || cityhippyfarmgirl

* Except for cooking with rose water, I really am not friends with the stuff. Recipe is still great with this omission though.

 

a little love into the seams

bunting- cityhippyfarmgirl

cutting- cityhippyfarmgirl

busy days and busy nights

good busy and chaotic busy all intertwined

a pause for a moment to do some measuring and cutting

it was sitting there for far too long, waiting to be cut, wanting to be cut

waiting for the right moment, that never seemed to arise

a project that I didn’t want to be rushed, didn’t want to be hurried

I wanted to do it mindfully

and sew a little love into the seams

finally the moment was right, the scissors were uncompromised and my thoughts were here, now

firmly embedding a little love into those seams.

gift ideas- cityhippyfarmgirl

bok choy stamps

I always wanted to make a potato stamp as a kid.

I had a crafty-making-stuff type of book. Which I would scrutinise for hours and hours looking at each and every page, planning what I would try to make next. Things like walking stilts, a phone from two cans and string, and those enticing potato stamps.

I made them once, and was fairly underwhelmed by the cross I had carved out. I did a few pages of painted crosses and that was about it. Back to scrutinising the next page as to what I could make next.

Far too many years to count later, and it’s time to revisit. Although this time it’s away with you potato stamp and hello bok choy. No carving necessary this time. Just chop off the leaves, (a little stir fry for dinner I think) leaving a one inch or so stump for your stamp. Give it a generous lick of paint and there you have it, a bok choy stamp.



speculating on speculaas and speculoos

chewed dog ears...or windmills if you squint really hard

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.

Speculaas

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

50g pecans

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….

OR

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.*

Thanks!

* 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.

upcycling to gift tags

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.

Blueberry Jam

Blueberry Jam

500gms blueberries

250mls water

bring it to a simmer

now slowly add

500gms sugar

1/2 lime juice

stir

a slow rolling boil until the jam thickens and passes the saucer test.

 

So what is the saucer test? Grab a small saucer and pop it in to the freezer while your jam is cooking. If you keep casting your eyes over the cooking jam, you will start to see the consistency changing, it will start to look like a thicker rolling boil. If you think it has started to thicken, get the cold saucer out of the freezer and dollop a small spoonful of jam on to it. Swirl it round a bit, and (hopefully) you will see that it has thickened up. Try running a finger through it. If it’s ready it will wrinkle a little and feel thicker.

a new hook in town…it’s crochet time


I’ve always kind of liked the traditional ‘nana’ crafts. Making jams and marmalades was fun even as a teenager. Knitting, although certainly not skilled at it. I find knitting straight up and down rather therapeutic, (and one can never have enough scarves in a mild temperate climate.) I have an ambition to make cakes for the CWA. I like getting up early. My mother plays music to loud. I’m prone to the odd nod off on the couch during a movie. And sensible shoes make sense, high heels don’t.

See. Me and being a nana, it would work.

Now one thing I had always dismissed as truly an old lady craft was crochet. Old ladies did that. Ones that couldn’t knit properly. Crochet was for cheap man made fibres crocheted together to make lap blankets. Dismissed. I also couldn’t do it. Some how I had missed that hands on lesson as a kid. My older family members could all do it, but not nana girl here.

Something happened though. Somehow my nana rader was switched on and I knew there was another craft that needed to be looked at. My crochet light had been ignited. I wanted to play.

One lesson with my mum. Her saying, I taught myself as an 8 year old helpfully floated around my head.

A kids how- to book from the library was borrowed.

I was off. How much fun is a little hooked stick and a ball of wool!

Now I am still practising, and my efforts still look like that of a child’s, but jeez its fun. The possibilities are endless.

Little crocheted purses filled with chocolate for Christmas gifts (bottom picture), an alternative to ribbon (top picture) dressed gingerbread men


Next, I’m thinking crocheted tissue box holders, underpants, and toilet seat covers.

Now how good will that be.

wrap it a little differently

I really like thinking of new ways to give presents to people. I’ve always thought it was a bit funny the idea of buying gift paper, wrapping a present and then watching it being ripped to shreds by the recipient. Not that I don’t like giving presents, I do. Actually I love it. However, if it’s expensive beautiful paper it seems like such a waste and if it’s cheap, well it’s still a waste. I’ve mentioned before using chocolate wrappers which if you go through the quantity that our household does certainly puts it to good use.

Christmas is still a little while away, but if you like these wrapping ideas they may take a little while longer to accumulate.

1/ Old maps make perfect wrapping paper. They are square and flat. Easily bought in second hand shops where they are quite often sold very cheaply as areas change. Places get outdated easily. Looks funky too, well I think it does. Add a ribbon or some wool, tying it up and gift is ready.

2/ Old movie or music posters. Quite often sold in music stores cheaply as they were advertising a band or album that was coming out. For the music or movie  fan this can make an exciting present….(well the wrapping of it anyway.)

3/ Turn your head slightly on the side and look at your food packaging slightly different. Bulk rice bought in a bag can be a wonderful way to present a gift. Linen sack of oats, beans, coffee can all be done the same way. Just have  a look around. This one is a zippered 5 kilo bag of basmati rice.

4/ Second hand stores are usually brimming with baskets of varying sizes. Save wrapping a present altogether and present it in a basket.

5/ Use retro fabrics, easily picked up in second hand places, (or auctions). Hold the fabric together using ribbons or wool.

6/ Use simple brown wrapping paper that hasn’t used dyes and decorate it yourself. Draw your kids hands all over it and get them to decorate it. Paint some flowers all over it. Or write little messages all over.

So many possibilities.

Gifts

Gifts- I love giving presents I really do. But I hate the idea of buying something as its the “right present to give”, give it to the person and then they hate it in turn. No point! So when I give a present I really  try and make some thing or incorporate making something into the gift. So some ideas that I am using lately.

Antique saucer, some great smelling soap and a recycled ribbon- looks good, is practicle and an easy thing to go in an op shop bag if they don’t want the saucer anymore. Do the same things with home made biscuits on the plate instead, and wrap it up in some cellophane tied up top. Looks professional, different, you are also re-using or up-cycling.

For Christmas this year I did the funky opshop one-off plates, made some jam shortbread biscuits and then wrapped it all up with a ribbon, this was then bulked up a bit with a fundraising teatowel from my kids community playgroup. I got a lot of positive feedback from them. Church fetes are also a great source for different plates.