Snow!

It snowed last Friday in the upper Blue Mountains. It wasn’t just a few fluttering snowflakes, either – it was real, pile-up-high kind of snow you rarely see in Australia. Here in the Blue Mountains, snow like this hadn’t happened in decades (or so the locals told me – we’ve only been here for six months).   The snow started late Thursday night, and when we woke up Friday morning, it had piled up to a magical proportion. snow in the blue mountains Our balcony covered in snow. snow in the blue mountains Our front yard transformed. snow in the blue mountains View from my sewing room. washing line in the snow Oops I had forgotten to take in the laundry!

Our kids had never seen snow before. Upon seeing the snow in the morning, they began singing Christmas songs – which I thought was funny. Their excitement doubled when they learned that school was cancelled – not that our car would have made it through the snowy roads anyway.

Mark and I were just as excited. I grew up in Japan with annual ski holidays, but I hadn’t seen snow in 10 years. Needless to say, we didn’t get any work done on Friday or Saturday. snow in blue mountains The snow brought back my childhood memories. I had forgotten just how much fun I had as a kid, on those snowy winter holidays in Hokkaido. Sledding, mini skis on the road, sliding down hills on cardboard boxes, and of course skiing. Our kids had been missing out! We might have to take them on a snow trip to Victorian mountains next winter.

Apple Cozy

If you have followed me on Facebook, you know I have started this “Sunday Funday” thing. It’s a Sunday mini market, where I make something new and offer it for sale on Sundays, directly from my Facebook page. I love how it allows me to enjoy a couple of hours of creative freedom every week, even when I’m super busy sewing to orders. I had missed a few Sundays while getting my new online shop up and running, but I’m back on track this week.

Photo of an apple cozy by Piggledee

 

This week, I made apple cozies. I had so much fun making these! We went for a drive to Bilpin this weekend, where they grow lots of apples. We saw apples everywhere, even though the apple season has officially finished. There were little cafes and roadside stands selling bags of Pink Lady apples, home-made apple pies, and apple cider.

photo of Pink Lady apples

While driving, I thought it’d be neat to have a shopping bag with an apple print. Mark (aka Mr. Piggledee) thought it’d be neat to have an individual apple bag – just for fun. So when we came back home, I began to make one – using my favorite Japanese apple fabric of course.

Photo of an apple cozy by PiggledeePiggledee apple cozy in red Japanese apple print

It took a couple of tries to come up with “just” the right size for one large apple. It’s a drawstring bag with a large flat bottom – kind of like a fabric box with a drawstring top. How cute is it? I can’t decide which I like better – the green apple or the red apple print? 

Piggledee apple cozy in green and red Japanese apple printsPiggledee apple cozy in red and green Japanese apple print

These apple cozies may not be on everyone’s list of essentials – in fact it is slightly frivolous. But I love it. It’s a happy bag, and it makes me smile when I see it. And that’s in the perfect spirit of Sunday Fundays I think. 

photo fo a row of apples

Beach

We went to Manly yesterday for a family birthday lunch.  At first Mark and I were pretty grumpy about having to drive all the way to such a crowded area with two little kids, cutting their naptime short — never a good thing, I tell you.  But then it ended up a lot of fun.  Why?  The beach!  Being so far away from a beach, we hardly ever take our kids to beaches.  Beach play wasn’t planned yesterday, either, but when Miss M saw the beach, she really wanted to go down there and play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She proceeded to take off most of her clothes off, including her undies, and went right in the water.  This took me by surprise, because she has always been a cautious child, afraid of much of nature.  But could it be that she’s changing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then both children had great fun playing with the little fountains lining up the main shopping area.  Mr. A got soaking wet and took his pants and nappy off right there.  Others were mortally embarrassed but I didn’t care.  If not for the nagging inlaws hurrying us along, I’d have let them play there for much longer, bare bottomed and all.  Maybe I’m becoming one of those parents people would roll their eyes at for letting the kids run around like feral kittens?

8 ideas on living (relatively) cheaply on organic food

So I’ve been getting weekly boxes of organic fruit and veggies, cooking healthy meals pretty much every day, and even making my own yoghurt and baking bread on a regular basis. Naturally I’ve been giving myself a big pat on the shoulder! How long will this eco/hippy/domestic goddess-dom last? Hard to tell… Actually, now that the dreaded school holiday is upon us again, I can see myself completely dropping the ball at some point over the next three weeks.

Whenever I enthuse about organic food, however, the number one response I get from people — even like-minded people — is that organic produce is too expensive. Well, that’s fair enough. It is more expensive. But in my recent bout of reading, I came across two compelling arguments about it that I wanted to share:

One – organic produce may be expensive up front, but conventional produce has a lot higher “hidden” cost you pay with your tax dollars. For instance, the cost of treating people falling illl from pesticide use, including a lot of farmers who become sick from being in contact with all that poison. (From  Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen by Anna Lappe)  Two – when you pay higher price for organic produce, you are using your voting power, with your money, to support sustainable, ethical farming over conventional. Much like donating money to your favourite charity, each time you buy local and organic, you are supporting that local farmer who might otherwise be taken over by a huge agricultural corporation who values profit over food safety. (From No Impact Man by Colin Beavan)

I think these are quite convincing arguments for shelling out money for local, organic produce. Don’t you?

But if you are still not persuaded, here are some of my suggestions for eating organic on the cheap side (in no particular order). What I mean is, eating organic food does not have to be expensive at all.

(1) Give up meat. We used to buy organic chicken, which is ridiculously expensive. After we gave up meat and became semi-vegetarian (we eat occasional seafood), our grocery bill got much more bearable. And you know what, fresh organic vegetables taste so much better than conventional ones, I bet you won’t miss meat all that much. A simple meal of vegetable stew like ratatouille tastes divine, full-flavoured, and it makes you swoon in happiness rather than poke around the dish in search of “point of interest” (as Mark would say, referring to meat or cheese).

I nearly shed tears when I saw my son eating organic broccoli for the first time, and asking for more – It was just plain, steamed broccoli with no sauce or salt. This is the boy who used to meticulously remove anything green from his dinner plate. Really, organic broccoli tastes that good.

(2) Use all vegetable scraps – With cheap conventional food, it is easy to forget about what you have in your fridge, buy more than you need, and let some food spoil. When you buy more expensive organic food, you’ll naturally cherish every bit of it like gold, so you’ll waste less food. No need to peel those carrots, too, because it’s pesticide-free. You can use the green parts of leek for making delicious vegetable stock. If you use up everything, you’ll naturally have to buy less to begin with.

(3) Bake your own bread – Organic bread is expensive. I used to spend $8 for a small loaf of organic bread that came in a plastic bag, and sometimes it wasn’t even fresh. Ouch. So now I make an effort to bake bread every 2-3 days. It’s quite easy once you get in the habit of it. It is nice to have a stand mixer or food processor (which can also knead bread for you), but you can knead by hand. Or there are “no-knead” bread recipes if you look around, which involves the dough sitting around for a long time, developing flavour. I posted a simple wholemeal bread recipe before, but investing in a good bread book or two (and maybe even a Kitchenaid mixer!) is a good idea. Now, with organic bread flour bought in bulk, a large loaf of organic bread costs me less than $2.

(4) Buy in bulk – By bulk, I don’t mean Costco-like gigantic portions. Even in smaller amounts, “bulk” is cheaper. I buy organic bread flour in a 12kg bag, which reduces the cost to about $2.5/kg — whereas if you buy a 1kg plain organic flour in supermarkets, it costs like $4/kg.

(5) Make your own yoghurt (and fresh cheese, etc) – I know, it sounds suspiciously like a hippy thing to do, but home-made yoghurt is wonderful. Just buy a small container of commercial yoghurt with live culture. Heat up a litre of organic milk till it nearly boils, then let it cool down to about 45 degrees (so it’s not too hot to stick your finger in). Mix in a tablespoon of yoghurt in it and stir (but don’t worry about little chunks of yoghurt undissolved), pour it in a clean jar with a tight lid, and keep it warm for about 6-10 hours. I wrap my yoghurt jar in a blanket and keep in in a warm spot in our house. And it costs… a mere $2.5 per a litre of organic yoghurt, as opposed to $6.50 or more that I used to buy in plastic containers!

(6) Avoid takeaways – Needless to say, eating out or takeaway is expensive. If you reduce these expenses, you’ll naturally have more budget to spend on organic produce. Again, home-cooked meal doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple recipes are really the best if you have fresh organic produce.

(7) Use inexpensive ingredients – Not all organic produce is expensive. Potatoes, pumpkins and carrots are relatively affordable. Dried beans are very affordable, even though sadly for me, organic rice is too expensive to buy. You can buy organic pasta in major Australian supermarkets, and they are quite affordable. Using these ingredients, you can make delicious and filling soups, dips, etc, that do not hurt your wallet.

(8) Grow your own vegetables – I can’t say my backyard farming is anything to be proud of… yet… but it does save a lot of money just having a few spring onions, lettuce, and herbs growing out there. Instead of buying a head of lettuce, using half and throwing the rest away when it gets too old in the fridge, you can pluck a few leaves at a time from your kitchen garden as you need it. Same with herbs. They may not be certified organic, but when you use organic potting mix and fertilizers, you know it’s safe. You can buy organic seedlings or seeds as well.

Well, I was going to try to make it to number 10 but I ran out of ideas. I’ll add more later if I think of anything else. I think I will also write a separate post on cooking vegetarian meals for your kids. Meanwhile, happy organic eating!

 

Organic food delivery

Ever since we moved to a suburb far away from my favourite organic market, we’ve been slack about eating organic food. I still try to find organic produce in supermarkets, but here in Sydney, they are limited to basics like carrots, potatoes, pumpkins and if I’m lucky, apples.  So for everything else we’ve been buying conventional, including strawberries – which I knew had a lot of pesticides on them, but my kids love them so much, and organic ones are so expensive and almost impossible to find.

Then I started reading this book called Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, by Anna Lappe. Lappe makes a case for local, organic, sustainable food – in a non-dogmatic, doable way. She reminded me how conventional fruit and vegetables are laden with chemicals, especially for fragile items like strawberries, and that children are especially vulnerable to them (higher residue of chemicals found in children’s bodies compared to adults’, etc). Ugh. I’ve been bad. No more conventional strawberries for us!

Eating fresh local food is also best, Lappe argues, because by the time produce arrives from farms thousands of miles away, they are practially wilting, and their nutritional value has greatly diminished. I actually didn’t know about this diminished nutritional value thing. Well, now I know it’s no good eating old, dying food I find at the back of my fridge.

So yesterday, we received our first boxes of fresh organic food delivered to our doorstep (from Doorstep Organics).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The veggie box. They look fresh!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the fruit box – sadly no strawberries, but still such a great variety. Look, a pineapple! I hope it didn’t come from Hawaii or anything. I need to check… I’ve eaten mandarins, kiwis and pears so far, and they were amazing. Organic food does taste better, no question.

It was a happy day to have so much freshness coming to our doorstep. Now I have to try hard not to let these precious fruit and vegetables go old and wilty in the back of the fridge….

In the mood for quilting

It is officially winter in Sydney, though it feels like it’s been winter for months. It is the coldest winter I remember in the six years that I’ve lived here. And I am no longer the hardest worker in this household – it is our new Paloma gas heater, without which we’d all perish in this cold, cold house.

And what do I think as I curl up in front of our new heater friend? Quilts. I am yearning to make quilts again. Quilts in warm, cozy colours to snuggle up with at night, or to wrap around a shivering child after a bath… Actually I have a million quilts already at home, but it doesn’t matter.

Last weekend we went for a stroll to Auburn Botanical Gardens. It is such a magical place, with a large Japanese garden, a majestic reflection pool, rose gardens, ducks, geese, swans, and even kangaroos and wallabies. Its magic is doubled when you consider its unlikely location – Auburn, a working-class neighbourhood with a large Muslim population.

Yet while strolling through this wonderland, I kept my eyes on the ground and thought of quilts. I mean, look at these amazing bricks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I walked on these brick roads, I saw them in a myriad colours recreated as quilts. The brick designers and quilters must have similar minds. Maybe they are even the same people – brick layers by day and quilters by night? The middle two brick pattens would be particularly stunning as quilts, I thought.

I haven’t started on any brick quilt yet…. I have been busy. But I cannot stop thinking about them, so I will have to find the time soon.

I did manage to put together a simple cot quilt top in warm, autumn / winter colours though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I pinned it with pure wool batting for extra warmth and loftiness, with a beautiful vintage Amy Butler fabric as backing. It is ready to be quilted – by hand, I think. I suppose it is not a typical cot quilt of bright pastel or juvenile prints. But I could not resist. I hope, when it is finished, the quilt will find a good home where a precocious baby or toddler might appreciate the colours of falling leaves and golden autumn sun…. And if not, Miss M or I can always use another quilt.