Monday, April 23, 2018

Homespun Things...Gluten Free Brioche...

Chefs you watch it? Does it inspire you?
I watch very little television, and I'm choosy about what I do watch.
We subscribed to Netflix about a year ago, mainly for the movies. 
But one series that absolutely captured my imagination was Chefs Table.
Watching Chefs Table, for me, is like being plunged into sensory overload...without the sensory overload if you get my drift. The vision is overload enough. Goodness knows, if we had Smell-a-Vision, or Taste-a-Vision, I might never leave the couch!
The most recent series focuses on desserts and pastries. Most of the dishes are beyond my wildest dreams of my own capabilities. But there were half a dozen things that so fired up my imagination, that I will not rest until I've tried recreating them all.
The first one was the Sicilian breakfast of Granita and Brioche.
Chef Corrado Assenza, whose family have run the Café Sicilia in Noto, Sicily for four generations, purportedly make the best Granita in the world. It's served as breakfast there due to the sweltering Summer temperatures, and apparently the locals only disagree on one thing. Whether the Almond or the Lemon, is the more superior. Almond fans never order the Lemon, and Lemon fans scorn the Almond version. As Sicily is famous for their Almonds and Lemons, it's not difficult to imagine that both would be amazing.
Now it needs to be said that whilst I'm not necessarily an ice cream fan, I do adore Granita and it's such a simple thing to make. Brioche is something I've always loved, but it's never really been on my radar to make my own until I found this recipe...
So with an afternoon to spare yesterday, I was on a mission.
As instructed in the recipe, I mixed the ingredients into a pliable dough, added slices of butter and huge organic free range eggs, and waited for the magic to happen.
After the required two hours, it seemed like NOTHING was happening.
So, I did a bit of an internet search, and discovered that due to the egg and butter content, Brioche (especially gluten-free Brioche), can be slow to rise.
I let it sit for a further two hours and was rewarded with a gluten free dough, at least double in size of the original.
Before rising
After rising
 I piled it into my loaf pan...

...smoothed the top...

...and let it rise for a further 45 minutes.
I know. It's sounding like a long drawn out process isn't it? But yeast cookery is always like that, and meanwhile my home was scented with butter and vanilla and yeast, and I pottered about planting herbs and things while the yeast worked it's magic.

Finally the egg wash was applied, and my baby was put to bed in the oven...

And a short 30 minutes later...look!

Glorious, glossy, golden, egg-enriched, yeasty Brioche!

A thing of beauty!

The final cut it and do a taste test...

...yep....looks right...

...tastes sublime!
We ate it for dessert with Home Made Almond Raspberry Granita...
Imagine the warm buttery, egg-y, richly scented soft and warm Brioche, paired with the icy, crunchy, delicately flavoured Granita.
It's a new kind of heaven, I tell you.
I'll share the recipe for the Granita tomorrow.
Meanwhile...get your own Brioche happening. It's worth every single moment!
Go on. You can do it.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Motherly Advice....Don't make your own life difficult #4...reassess your life...often...

Don't be a follower, be a leader.
That was one of my Mums mantras. She badgered us with that one. It worked. For better or worse, none of us are 'followers'. We all walk to the beat of our own drum.
So it amazes me sometimes, what folk will do, just because somebody else thinks its a good idea. Or even because I thought it was a good!
I've shared recipes like those for Ricotta cheese and Greek Yoghurt, seen here, and had some friends rave about them, others not so much. Often, when pressed for what may have gone wrong with the recipe, they'll shrug and say 'I guess I just don't like Ricotta Cheese/Greek Yoghurt'.
Then why did you make it? Because everyone else said it was good, has been one response.
Gotta laugh.
Don't be a follower.
Don't make cheese and yoghurt if you don't like it or eat it, just because someone else says it's a good idea.
Don't buy a pasta machine and roll your own pasta dough if the time taken to do so, and the effort involved, takes you away from more important tasks.
In fact, don't make things from scratch if it doesn't suit your lifestyle.
Making from scratch, is touted as the ultimate money saver. And it certainly can be. I'm one of the loudest voices on that topic. It has suited me for a good portion of my life.
But nowadays, we save money differently....
Fast food around here no longer means copycat KFC made with gluten free flour.
It's more likely to mean vacuum sealed cooked brown rice, turned into a tasty fried rice loaded with diced vegetables. Sometimes the vegetables are even of the pre-diced and pre-packed kind. Shock-horror. I know. Me. The Queen of Making from Scratch.
But sometimes it can happen that what was once worth making from scratch, or DIY-ing, is no longer so. Sometimes, you make new compromises to save money, time and energy.
Once, the most important thing here, was to save money.
Now, as we accept that our energy levels are not what they once were, and we hanker for meaningful time with the granddaughters, and the get-up-and-go to exercise, garden, clean and renovate, we accept that often saving energy, is more important.
Life changes. It really does. And faster than you expect sometimes.
Maybe you have a newborn, or you're caring for frail or elderly parents. Maybe like me, your child rearing years are coming to a close and you find you have more time, but less inclination.
Maybe, it's simply that in growing up, your family has morphed and become more health conscious, rather than dollar conscious.
Simple gluten free crepes with lemon and sugar, were up until very recently, a greatly anticipated treat for my daughter.
She's made the leap from school to tertiary study now, and let me tell you, it's a whole new ball game.

This is her usual breakfast nowadays. Seasonal fruit, muesli, and some odd combination of spread and granola on her toast. I cannot complain. It's certainly healthy enough!

This is her usual lunch. A bowl of vegetables is okay too. But for a Mama who has prided herself on her baking and cooking from scratch, it's a rude awakening.

This bowl of lightly steamed vegetables, dressed as if they were pasta with olive oil and Parmesan, got the nod.

But long gone are the bakes and risottos of yesteryear.
Now it's Quinoa...

...and Field Mushrooms dressed up as Pizza.

I've had to completely reassess my grocery buying habits and the way I plan meals and treats. It's a headache, let me tell you. Some days I just don't feel like me anymore.
Speaking of feeling different, the self has gone through some changes too. Two years have passed since a ripped jean or 3/4 pant have lived in this Mamas wardrobe.
Now it's all scarfy things, cardigan things, and even brooches.

Hells Bells.
Sometimes it frightens even me.
Fruit virtually drips from our 3 1/2 year old fruit trees and I have to hurry up and use it all. So baking still happens, as does jam and chutney making. But there's no more Jam Drops unless the Grandies are visiting, and chocolate brownies, even when made with mashed banana, are apparently an absolute no-no. Lemon butter, lemon slice and preserved lemon get a look-in, but sadly no more crepes with lemon and sugar. Sugar is a no-no too.

Life changes folks. Yes it does. And it IS scary.
I have to tap myself on the shoulder sometimes and just go 'who ARE you, now?'. It's mind boggling.
But we have to adapt.
The child rearing years draw to a close. A new era dawns. Grandchildren call. As does retirement.
It's rattling at times.
But here's what you can do.
Stop making yoghurt or crepes with lemon sugar if nobody eats them any more.
Stop wearing 3/4 pants and comfortable shoes, if the time has come to wear a pretty dress and heels, and put you first again.
Roll with the punches, go with the flow, accept the changes that life brings, and embrace them.
Some people in your life will think you've gone batty, because you're no longer being a follower.
But YOU might like it.
Be a leader, not a follower. Find yourself again. Reassess your life.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Homespun Things....Custom essential oil perfume blends....

Mothers Day is almost upon us, so I thought I'd share my custom essential oil perfume blends.

My recent fascination with essential oils, started with Annabel at The Bluebirds are Nesting and her posts on Essential oils, called The Home Pharmacy.

She reignited my interest in this topic, long dormant due to a gazillion other interests and tasks on my plate.

Mum was a huge fan of essential oils and their power to treat many conditions, so I was fortunate to already have a creditable collection of oils and literature with which to get started.

I returned to a lovely book Mum had on custom blended perfumes, but found it a little limited for what I wanted.

Instead, I decided to blend my own.

I did a bit of research, having recently had an experience where one oil I added overwhelmed all the others, and found some reading on Essential Oil Values at Hello Glow. It's a bit convoluted, but it's really helpful in blending to get the loveliest scent.

And less than an hour later, I have five beautiful customised gifts for friends or family.

I've made one each of a Fresh, a Spicy, a Floral, one I called Sweet Summers Day because it smells just like one, and a Sweet and Earthy blend, just to see how I like them. I used the blending idea from the chart I linked in my previous post, and it does seem a successful way of blending without too much knowledge of blending if you get my drift. My little bottles are 10ml capacity, so I pretty much used the oil 'value' as the number of drops per vial.

Here are my blends:


 4 drops Rosemary
4 drops Frankincense
3 drops Lime West Indies


 1 drop Cinnamon Bark
8 drops Bergamot
1 drop Lemongrass


 1 drop Jasmine Absolute
7 drops Lavender
3 drops Lime West Indies

Sweet and Earthy:

 5 drops Palmarosa
6 drops Sandalwood

Sweet Summers Day:

 6 drops Bergamot
6 drops Lavender
3 drops Lime West Indies
2 drops Cinnamon Bark

Each was topped with vodka.

Oddly I only have Vanilla infused Vodka on hand as it was gifted to me and I don't drink it, and I think that's added an interesting base note too. Very subtle though.

I thought the Sweet and Earthy was my initial favourite, but as is always the case with scent, as it settles on the skin, other notes come in to play. Now I think it's the Spicy, with the Fresh a close second. Although I just smelled the Sweet and Earthy on my wrist again, and now I can't!

 An hour later, and I've just tried the Floral blend and the Sweet Summers Day, and I think for today, they're runaway winners by a long shot! These are ALL my own blends, not borrowed from somewhere else, so please use them but don't abuse them.

My little bottles, which you can purchase here, are decorated with adorable grosgrain ribbon bows gifted to me by the lovely Annabel at The Bluebirds are Nesting. I think they're the perfect finishing touch.
Go on. Give this a try. I guarantee you'll love them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 I saved money this week...

I love a good tally up at the beginning of each week. I love eyeballing what I achieved the week before, and setting myself a goal to equal or better that total. It's fun for me. Maybe I need a!
But seriously, it does make sense of the myriad little invisible things I do each and every day, and shows my family my true worth, if nothing else.
So last week, I surprised a friend with some lavishly trimmed pillowcases. These are such a simple thing to create, and everyone loves them. Well, the ladies do anyway. If you can sew a straight line, you can trim a purchased pillowcase with lace and a ruffle. True. See how to, here.
I made a huge batch of Laundry detergent. Not only does this smell better than the overly perfumed bought stuff, I think it does a better job AND doesn't give us an allergic reaction. This is about a months worth here.

I added some more customised essential oil perfume blends to add to my gift cupboard. The comparable price for these at a high end gift store is around the $17-25 mark. Mine cost around $2 to produce, so that's a win, I say!

Yummy and quick chicken and veg one tray bake was an almost instant meal on a night when I didn't feel like cooking.

Fresh raw beetroot sliced on a mandolin slicer so it's paper thin...

...and home made coleslaw, made delicious burgers on the weekend. Honestly, who buys designer burgers and pays $15??? Crazy stuff.
 I scored some pre embellished Moccona coffee jars, with coffee obviously, for half price at the Supermarket. These are brilliant as canisters, or for gifting cookies and such at Christmas.
The granddaughters visited and we made fun at home, picking lavender and making little fun and an early appreciation of the garden coming right up.

I found a tutorial on painting lavender flowers to embellish some gifts I have in mind..
...and have you ever heard of magnetic chandelier crystals? Me neither. But I have now, and I'm about to save hundreds of dollars making my own.

All in all, a very satisfying week, and one filled with good times, good food, and family.
Just the way I like it.
I calculated savings of well over $650 for my week as a Home Guardian.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Homespun Things...Inspiration everywhere...

I saw a list of 'ugly' gifts on social media this morning. Being a person who avoids gifting 'ugly', but who loves gifting 'practical', I had a read.
The list included bunches of flowers from the garage, socks and hankies, umbrellas for some reason not stated, and romance novels. Apparently though, according to that writer, the flowers were okay if they were gifted in a beautiful vase, the socks and hankies were a no-no under any circumstances, umbrellas got the nod if they were beach umbrellas, and coffee table books were okay but not the novels.
Well, I guess we all write for a different audience. I've gifted garage flowers, socks, jocks, hankies, umbrellas and novels....although perhaps not romance novels, and for the right person, those choices have been absolute winners.
I'm kind of with her on the flowers from the garage are okay in a vase. Although I'd add, that I'd usually add a bit more greenery from my own garden to them, and refresh the packaging with a lavish bow. Garage flowers don't usually have the bells and whistles do they. But that alone is a worthy case for snapping up those vases at thrift stores. Something simple is best because you have to transport it remember. A couple of dollars on a thrift store vase, and a big ribbon and you're done.
I'm good with gifting socks and hankies too. Pictured above and further down below, are the flannelette hankies I gifted my family, along with beautifully packaged chocolates, seen below also, for Easter. I made the hankies myself, and customised them elegantly. The chocolates were the super thin luxury type, cardboard sleeves removed and replaced with wrapping I'd created on PicMonkey. You can find them in downloadable form, here.
The thing is to be looking out for inspiration for gifts no matter where you are, or what time of year it is. Don't go leaving it till the last minute. You can make gifts in small windows of 15 minutes at a time if need be. You should see what Patsy at A Working Pantry rustles up in 15 minute slots of sewing!
And these hankies inspired by Annabel at The Bluebirds are Nesting aren't even sewn...
Certainly tearing a sheet into 38cm (15inch) strips, then snipping it into squares and pinking the edges with pinking shears like this, can yield an astounding number of ready to use or ready to gift hankies/dusting cloths in 15 minutes, once you get into a rhythm with it.
These custom wrapped chocolates take less time than that. Two minutes each is a stretch. It's more like a minute each, and these sorts of artistically wrapped chocolate bars will set you back over $10 each at posh delicatessens and foodie boutiques.

Here are the ones I used for inspiration. I've never heard of this chocolatier, but I adore their packaging...
...and here are mine...
..pastel blues...
...different trims...

...pinks, creams and gorgeous textures...
...lavenders, yellows, geisha ladies, and grosgrain polka dots...

All those, gleaned from a single picture seen on Instagram.
Here's another Instagram image that caught my eye. How could you go past these beautiful colours, if nothing else. I'm now crafting a series of coffee cup cozies, based upon these Laduree colours...
...mine are pistachio coloured Panne velvet which is naturally stretchy, trimmed with gold and white cord. I think I'll add some metallic gold embroidery...probably French Knots and leaves. That will be similar enough for me.
 Of course once I'd seen that delicate palette, I couldn't un-see it, and when choosing the prints for my flannelette hankies, a Queen Sized sheet set on sale for $15 in this gorgeous mint colour, and some toning baby pink and pastel accented lengths of fabric, seemed the ideal combination. Sheets are perfect for this as they have miles of fabric in just one sheet. Certainly far more than you'd get in yardage.
Here are the Unicorn printed ones I made the granddaughters. At the bottom of this post, is a link to a downloadable version of this tag for you to add to your own lush pile of soft hankies if you wish...

...these ones were for the men in the family...

....and the Boho inspired feathers went to the girls...

Of course, my fellow bloggers are a constant source of inspiration too, and ever since I first saw Annabels Powder Puffs, I knew I'd be making my own version.
I'd been looking at crystals of late. I'm refurbishing two chandeliers, and the pretty Aurora Borealis...

...and blue crystals...

...had left their indelible mark on my imagination as well.
So when I found this remnant of powder blue polar fleece, I immediately re-imagined it with baby blue chiffon bows as chocolate scented powder puffs for Easter.

Along with other bits of fancy like Unicorn inspired slippers, these were welcomed by the 4 and 6 year old grandies with enthusiasm.
Look at all this pastel loveliness...
...piles of hankies, pyjamas, and powder puffs... much prettiness...
...hankies topped with a custom wrapped chocolate bar, and embellished with my own customised ribbon, look like something from a high end gift store...

And even a simple bar of choccie, wrapped beautifully, is special.
Who needs store bought Easter Eggs...really.
Here's my latest piece of inspiration. It's a vintage flour sifter, filled with faux foliage from IKEA. Seen on Instagram, this immediately captured my imagination. I have miles of French Lavender growing, which is so easy to propagate, and I'm thinking recycled tins, spray painted white, filled with baby Lavender, and finished with these decals.
Or these ones.

Here's my French Lavender...I told you...miles of it. I adore it, and everyone that visits admires it longingly. Why wouldn't I turn it into gifts?
See? Inspiration everywhere. You just have to keep an open mind.
Here's that label...
Hankies from Heaven Label
What can you add to your gift stash this week?
Go on. You can do it.