Thursday, October 3, 2013

October - a month of challenges

In honour of spring I've decided to try and be a more regular blogger and to get some order and routine into my life. To help make this happen I'm undertaking not one but two challenges this month. Maybe a little too much at once but we'll see.

The first challenge is one I participated in two years ago, Buy Nothing New month. Back then I did a little too much op shopping, so I'll try to curb that little addiction this time round.
It's pretty simple, just buy nothing new for the month of October, except of course food and essentials. One could and should adopt this way of thinking for ever.  When you consider the amount of stuff that most of us acquire it's not a bad way of living. If you click on this Link you'll find out all about the challenge. Go on, join in, it should be fun.

The second challenge is going to require a lot more commitment and dedication on my behalf, as I've set myself a 30 Day Yoga challenge. Yep I've committed myself to practicing yoga and some meditation everyday for 30 days.  My hope is that I will continue with this regular practice after the 30 days is over.

It's day four today, so far so good, the only problem I have is three furry friends who insist on wanting to join in!

Tana the Downward Facing Dog
 Wish me luck with my challenges. My plan is to post updates to keep me on track.

Cheers till next time

Friday, June 28, 2013

Change is in the air

Hi all, it would appear that google reader is packing its bags on Monday and all my lovely followers will vanish into the blogosphere.  Even though I hardly ever post these days and just in case I get all motivated, I'd hate for you to miss my inspiring words of wisdom (ok, a bit of an exaggeration I known). If you're inclined you can follow me through Bloglovin. Hope I've got the link thing right.

Cheers Lisa

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Gluten free Christmas cake - the taste test!

Happy New Year dear readers!  I hope 2013 is a year of happy times, positive changes and new beginnings. A day late I know, I managed to keep myself away from the computer for most of the day yesterday.  I"m in the process of moving my sewing room from downstairs to a spare room upstairs.  So many bags and boxes to sort out, my goodness.  It's amazing how much fabric and stuff one has squirreled away :0/

Any who back to the gluten free fruit cake I baked for Christmas.  Well  it was a great success, lovely and moist, with a wonderful taste.  The only problem and I wouldn't really call it a problem was that it was a bit crumbly.  That could be due to me adding a 1/2 cup of almond meal and not reducing the flour or adding any extra liquid.  Gluten free cakes can be crumbly anyway.  I'll certainly make it again, perhaps I'll be more organised next Christmas and make it well in advance.  Hmmm I'm sure it would taste even better with more time to age! 

Gluten free Christmas cake

Hope your 2013 is off to a good start!!
Cheers Lisa

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The gluten free Christmas cake experiment

For the past 6 - 8 months, maybe more Tony has been eating wheat free as much as possible. Whilst he isn't gluten intolerant, too many wheat products upset his gut terribly. This has really thrown a spanner in my baking and cooking routine to say the least.  I still make sourdough bread, although we eat only a few slices every week.  There have also been experiments with different cake and muffin recipes with varying degrees of success.  Thank goodness for the internet and blogging world, so many wonderful recipes out there.

Every year I promise myself that I'll bake a proper Christmas cake, soak the fruit etc. Of course I never get around to it and end up making my favourite boiled fruit cake, yummy but not a real fruit cake if you know what I mean.  About two weeks ago I finally got my act into gear and started on the cake.  Firstly I had to find a tried and tested gluten free version, a quick spin around google threw up so many options.  The lovely ladies at the DTE forum also gave some suggestions.  I finally settled on a recipe, it was also suggested by a forum member, same recipe from a different site. Anyway enough blabbing on, here it is.

Gluten free Christmas cake - original recipe from

850g mixed fruit (I used a combination of sultanas, currants, raisins, prunes, dates, dried apricots, apples and pears)
1 cup of brandy - you could also use bourbon, Irish whiskey, cointreau, sherry or Drambuie for a really boozy cake
150g butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar (I used rapadura)
3 eggs at room temperature
1 cup gluten free plain flour
1/4 cup gluten free S/R flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup blanched almonds (I used1/2 cup of pecans and soaked them with the fruit)
1/4 cup apricot jam (optional)
My additions
1/2 cup ground almonds
2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Place dried fruit and 2/3 cup of brandy in a large airtight container, mix well, cover and leave at least overnight preferably for a week, stir daily.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 150C. Lightly grease a deep (7 x 20cm) round cake tin.  Line base and sides with double layers of baking parchment then brown paper.
  • Using an electric mixer cream butter and sugar till pale and creamy, add vanilla extract if using and then eggs one at a time.
  • Sift flour and spices together, mix in the ground almonds. Fold soaked fruit into the butter and sugar mix then gently fold in the flours.
  • Pour into prepared tin, smooth the top with a soup spoon dipped in water, then decorate with almonds.
  • Bake for 2 - 2 1/4 hours or until cooked when tested. 
  • Remove from oven and pour over remaining 1/3 of a cup of brandy (now I seem to remember that I should have poked holes into the top of the cake before doing this).
  • Allow to cool in the tin.
  • If serving straight away, brush with warmed apricot jam or wrap in two layers of foil and place in airtight container until Christmas. 
  • If you intend feeding the cake with more brandy wrap it first in two layers greaseproof then the foil.  Make sure it's easy to access the top of the cake, brush with alcohol every week or every couple of days.

From the questions on this cake should have the same keeping qualities as a regular fruit cake if stored properly.

It looks good and smells wonderful.  I'll let you know how it tastes on Christmas day.

Have you finished your Christmas baking yet?

Cheers Lisa

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sweet treats

I thought I'd share with you today a yummy protein bar recipe that I've rediscovered.  It's one of those gems you find in the weekend paper, cut it out, make it once, then stick the recipe in with all the others and forget about it.

The recipe originally came from Teresa Cutter , do check out her web site it has some wonderful recipes.

Protein power bars

1 cup rolled organic oats
1 cup slivered almonds (I used a combination of chopped up cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, pepitas and sunflower seeds)
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup vanilla protein powder (I used almond meal instead)
2 dried bananas, chopped (not banana chips)
200g dried figs, sliced (I used 100g and made up the rest with dates)
200g dried fruit medley (today I used sultanas, raisins, dried apricots, dried cranberries and dates)
1/2 cup apple juice to combine (I juiced some mandarins instead)
Optional extra topping
1/2 cup of good quality, fair trade dark chocolate
1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons of milk (you could use almond or coconut milk instead)

Preheat the oven to 200C
Spread the oats, nuts and coconut on a baking tray lined with foil or baking paper and place in the oven to lightly toast until golden, check and stir it frequently. Remove and allow to cool.

Melt the chocolate pieces and 1 tablespoon of the milk, either in the microwave or over a bain-marie, add the rest of the milk and mix till glossy.  Spread the chocolate in a thin layer over the base of a lined slice tin approx. 7" x 9", place in the fridge till set.

Once cool process the nuts till ground in a food processor or blender, set aside. Prepare your dried fruit, chop it into smaller pieces, process about a third of the amount at a time till finely chopped.

Teresa suggests putting everything together in your food processor. From past experience and unless you have a Vita mix or Thermomix I would recommend doing it in batches, nothing like burning out the motor mid way through ;-/

In a large bowl combine the nuts, dried fruit, protein powder and apple juice. Mix well, it needs to be completely combined and a bit like a thick paste add more juice if the mix is too dry.
Pat the mixture out over the chocolate layer, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. 

Remove the slice from the tin, cut into small bite-sized pieces and store in the fridge in an airtight container for about 3 weeks, if it lasts that long! Or you could wrap the pieces in greaseproof and freeze.

Be warned it's very moorish but rather filling, which is a good thing.

Another sweet treat for me

It was my birthday yesterday and these are the beautiful flowers my lovely Tony dropped off at work for me.  Isn't he ya baby!!

Till next time

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Extreme garden pest control

As you may have read in my last post, things have been neglected somewhat of late. That includes the garden and backyard. Weeds are going crazy, the grass needs mowing and some undesirable bugs have taken up residence. A few months back I picked a very small crop from my mandarin tree. I had noticed that some bronze stink bugs were present. It was my intention to give the tree a good prune, debug, oil spray treatment and fertilise. However I got slack and never got round to doing it. Next thing I know the whole tree had burst into flower, oops missed that opportunity. I thought all was going OK, I hadn't seen any more stink bugs, yes the tree really did need a prune but it was too late now. I gave it some liquid fertiliser and planned on giving it a good treatment once the fruit was the size of a pea. Last week whilst watering the tree I was shocked to find the tree was literally covered in orange bugs, different looking bugs to what had been there before.
The offending bugs
As it turns out these are immature bronze stink bugs. They can cause lots of damage to the tree especially the new shoots, see above picture.  I don't think there is an organic spray to control these pesky critters unfortunately.  You can pick them off manually and dump them into hot soapy water.  However, when under threat they squirt out a rather nasty smelling slime that can be very irritating to the skin.  The other method of removal that I had heard about was from Annette McFarlane on ABC local radio gardening program.  Annette uses a vacuum to remove the bugs, yes a vacuum.  Considering the size of the infestation I thought this is going to be the best method for me!

Extreme pest control tools
 Armed with my trusty old vac, eye protection, gloves, hat and a long sleeved shirt I attacked the tree.  My my my what a sense of satisfaction one gets from sucking those blighters from the leaves and branches.  At the same time I did feel some guilt as they have a right to live as well.  It took the best part of an hour to do the job.  Up and down the ladder, looking under leaves and branches, finding their hiding spots.  I can't imagine what the neighbours must have thought, vacuuming a tree.....LOL
Once finished I had to prune out a large branch in the middle as it had died.  I found about a dozen more bugs so they got they hot soapy water treatment.  I'll give the tree an oil spray next as I think it has scale as well. 

A word of warning if you want to try this yourself, don't use a bag less vacuum or your brand new Dyson (no I didn't make that mistake).  It makes a bit of a mess in the vac and the smell from the bugs is a bit difficult to remove but it works a treat!  

My trusty garden helper Tana

I'm finally getting my gardening mojo back again.  It's just going to take a long time to get on top of things, baby steeps.

Do you have any extreme gardening adventures?

Cheers Lisa

Friday, October 5, 2012

A sewing update

Goodness look how easily I fall back into bad blogging habits. 
I'm slowly trying to establish some sort of a routine in my life, as everything has gone to pot over the last 8 - 12 months.  The wonderful Rose started a 28 day challenge on the DTE forum last month and I'm hoping it will help me find my way.

I have managed to do a little sewing during my blogging drought and thought I'd share that with you today.

This friendship bag was made to hold an 18th birthday present for a family friend.  My idea. Of course I leave everything to the last minute and couldn't get it finished on time.

Friendship bag
Fabric panels and coordinating fabrics
Other side
It turned out really well and is very cute, I'm sure I'll find a home for it soon.  There is a bit of an interesting story about the fabrics I used.  The panels were purchased from eBay with the intention of using them for a quilt for my niece. Some months later I won a fabric pack as a door prize at a my local quilt shop.  I later realised that the fabrics were from the same range as the little panels, what a coincidence.

A couple more  pairs of underpants have been made.  After a few adjustment to the pattern I'm really happy with how they fit.  The Hawaiian print cotton Lycra cost only $1.00 for 1m at the RSPCA thrift shop.  The black Lycra was purchased several years ago and never used.  Buying the elastic is the most expensive part.  I must get myself organised as I'm in desperate need of a few more pairs.

Perfect fit undies

Last but not least I finally finished my vintage sheet quilt top.  Hmmm it's only taken how many years.  I was all set to use an old woollen blanket as batting and one of Mum's old flannelette sheets for backing but it's a bit bigger than I anticipated.  Finding or having the space to lay it out so I can sandwich the layers is proving difficult.  Sounds like another excuse really!! 

Being queen size it's difficult to get a good picture

I'm planning on using the sheet on the left as backing
I really need to apply myself to finish this quilt, it will be perfect for summer, nice and bright and breezy.  Stay tuned for updates and a whole post dedicated to vintage sheets. 

Have a lovely weekend
Cheers Lisa