Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Frugal Living’ Category

Cotton Crush

It’s a dull and overcast day in Sydney, so I thought I’d brighten it up by showing you my gorgeous new cottons from Bendigo Woollen Mills. Look at how pretty they are!

Given that I can make ten dishcloths from each 200g ball, I probably didn’t need to order five, but I found the colours irresistible. Bendigo Mills import their raw cotton from Asia (you know me, I rang to ask!) but they process it all in Victoria. Their wool, on the other hand, is locally grown in central NSW.

The cotton is a joy to work with – the yarn is smooth and doesn’t snag, and the finished cloth wears and launders like iron (we’re still using the ones Rose sent us five years ago). At $12 per 200g ball (that’s equivalent to four regular balls), I think they’re great value.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m revisiting crochet and enjoying it immensely, although I’m only attempting a very basic double stitch (which for some strange reason, we call treble stitch in Australia). I’ve lost all my knowledge of crochet terminology, so here are lay instructions for my super simple dishcloth:

  1. Using 8ply cotton and a 4.00mm hook, make a slip loop and then chain 35 stitches.
  2. Work one row single crochet (called double crochet here – it’s all very confusing!)
  3. Work 18 rows double crochet (you’re meant to start each row with three chain stitches, but Maude taught me to do a squiggly stitch at the beginning to get a neater edge – google “chainless starting double crochet”)
  4. Work one row single crochet, then pull the cotton through the loop. Using a large tapestry needle, weave the ends into the finished cloth and trim them off.

If you’d prefer to knit, you might like this pattern – I don’t like to purl, so it’s knit stitches only.

And if it all sounds too hard, you could just sew some dishcloths. I found an old piece of cotton waffle weave fabric in my stash – I think it was for bedspreads, but we’d used it as an outdoor table cloth at the kids’ birthday parties. I simply cut it into squares and overlocked (serged) the edges. They work a treat…

We need a lot of dishcloths to replace the paper towels in our kitchen, so I’ve upped production. They all sit in a drawstring bag next to the stove…

Are you a knitter or crocheter? My fingers and wrists get quite sore if I do too much (old woman sigh…), so my output is limited to dishcloths. They’re hugely satisfying to make nonetheless!

Read Full Post »

Do you have time for a cuppa? I’d love to catch you up on what’s been happening over the past couple of weeks. I should warn you though – this is a loooong post!

. . . . .

Firstly, an update on our attempts to try and reduce our household waste. It’s been four weeks now, and we’ve filled our first bokashi bin. It will sit on the back deck under cover for a further three weeks, during which time the contents should ferment into a compostable form.

I’ll let you know how it goes, but we’ve been really pleased so far – it does smell a bit, but not nearly as much as I thought it would, especially given the fish heads I put in there a fortnight ago. And the smell is more of a fermenting odour rather than a rotting one. I think the bins that we bought – Maze 12L Indoor Composters – are particularly good as they have a rubber seal which keeps them reasonably airtight. Some of the others (including the larger Maze one) just have a loose flap on top.

Using these for a month has led to a huge reduction in the amount of waste we have to throw out each week…

. . . . .

We’ve made a concerted effort to reduce our use of paper towels as much as possible. The family are loving the cloth napkins – I’m not sure they’ll ever go back to paper! I’ve found that we needed a lot more than I thought we would – we’ve currently got two dozen on rotation, which means I only need to wash once every five days or so.

I’m also making more cotton dishcloths – not wiping up spills with paper towels means we need more of these as well. I’m trying a crocheted version this time, but it’s been twenty years since I last picked up a hook, so there’s a bit of relearning to do. By the way, if you’re making these, Bendigo Mills has the most gorgeous seasonal colours on sale at the moment (link is here). The 200g balls are $12 and equivalent to four regular balls in weight. I get about ten dishcloths from each one.

. . . . .

The mesh bags are working a treat! I know it’s not essential to colour match the veg to the bags, but it did make for a lovely photo…

Last night, I plugged in my headphones, listened to a James Herriot audiobook, and whipped up a stack of these for family and friends…

. . . . .

We’ve repaired our laundry basket for the umpteenth time. Every six months of so, we talk about replacing it, but we can never figure out what to do with the old one…

. . . . .

I’ve picked up a big batch of socks from Richard the podiatrist – unfortunately the sockless scanning technology didn’t work out, so he still has oodles to get rid of. If you’re new to our blog, you can read the whole story here and here. I’ve washed and sterilised them all, and will donate half to charity this winter.

The remaining half I’m turning into a sock blanket and oil bottle drip savers…

I cut the top band off the socks I’m using for the  blanket, but they were too good to waste, so I zigzagged the raw edges and we now use them in place of rubber bands…

. . . . .

Our lovely neighbour Ellen gave us a couple of rolls of Who Gives A Crap toilet paper to try. I’m sure they’re a great organisation, and the paper is fine, but after much discussion, Pete and I have decided that we need to buy Australian made.  Pete has concerns about the environmental cost of shipping toilet paper from China, whereas I feel that we have so little manufacturing left in Australia that we need to support locally made wherever possible. Obviously this is a personal choice, and I have a lot of friends buying from Who Gives A Crap who are extremely happy with their service and product…

For what it’s worth, I’ve done a bit of research, and our big producers – Kleenex, Sorbent and Quilton – all source their fibre from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) accredited forests. They all manufacture here. Quilton is fully Australian owned; Kimberly-Clark (makers of Kleenex) now have the Greenpeace seal of approval and donate to the World Wildlife Fund (this article by the Guardian is particularly interesting).

All of the above come in plastic wrap, but if you buy in bulk, there’s only one piece of plastic packaging to REDcycle every six weeks (as opposed to individually wrapped rolls or two-packs).

. . . . .

Our rubbish going into the red bin each week is now down to just half a kitchen bin bag. We’ve found these plastic-free Maze bin liners made from starch. They’re expensive, but we only use one a week now, so that’s not a problem…

. . . . .

Small Man was immediately on board with our waste reduction attempts, but Big Boy has taken a little longer to get his head around it all. So I was very chuffed this week when he packed himself a pita pocket for lunch, wrapped it in a beeswax wrap and then a furoshiki. Success!

And on the topic of the beeswax wraps, they’ve been the bee’s knees (ugh..sorry). We haven’t used a single piece of clingfilm or a new plastic bag in over a month (we have used recycled bags though). If you haven’t made any of these, I’d encourage you to have a go. And for what it’s worth, we tried adding a little jojoba oil to them, but I really can’t notice a difference, so I’d suggest you save the dollars and just use the wax sheets. Our tutorial on making them is here.

. . . . .

Moving on to other things…

Dianmari left me a comment last post about substituting leftover sourdough starter for yoghurt in cakes. It worked! I tried it in the blueberry coffee cake – our starter Priscilla is never particularly acidic, but the cake was delicious nonetheless. Pete thought it tasted a bit like berry pancakes. Worth experimenting with if you have leftover starter! The tip was originally in this post by Chocolate and Zucchini…

. . . . .

Our neighbour Mark allowed us to raid his fig tree this year, and Pete turned the surplus crop into amazing fig and nectarine jam…

. . . . .

We visited Carriageworks a couple of weeks ago to view  the Katharine Grosse installation. It was magnificent, but we were all troubled by the massive amount of fabric used – 8,000 metres of super heavy duty canvas. And given that the work was spray painted after the fabric was hung, it would be impossible to rehang it anywhere else. One of the volunteers told us that the fabric was all going to be unpicked and then shipped (!) back to Germany to the artist. I hope she turns it into something else…

. . . . .

A cooking class update on lovely Stephen, who nearly set fire to his kitchen baking his first solo loaf of sourdough. His second loaf was rustic but serviceable.

His third loaf was unbelievably good – it looked like the product of a fancy artisan bakery.  He told me he’d “done some reading” and that because he was adding rye to the mix, he’d had to judge the water quantity “by feel”. Watch this space, folks. I’ll let you know when he opens his microbakery…

. . . . .

I placed my first online order with Harris Farm and was delighted with how my goods arrived. Apart from the carrots and onions (which I’d ordered in bags – obviously I still have a lot to learn) and the half a celery, the remaining veg were all loose in the cardboard box. They’d clearly made an effort to carry through their plastic-free stance to home delivery.

A tip – if you subscribe to the Harris Farm newsletter (at the bottom of this webpage), they’ll email you a barcode that will give you 5% off all vegetable purchases in store. And the first time I used my code, they emailed me a $20 introductory voucher for their online service…

. . . . .

I finally tried Emilie’s sourdough pita breads, and they’re fabulous! It’s from her book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple – have you picked up your copy yet?

. . . . .

Last Sunday, I baked three burnished loaves of sourdough…

…and traded them with Tom of Living Fossil Gallery for a $15 discount on this 400 million year old orthoceras plate. If you ever want to get into fossil collecting, orthocerases are a great place to start. They’re very affordable, and highly underrated in my opinion…

. . . . .

Finally, let me end this long-winded ramble with a couple of photos from yesterday morning’s walk. The sky was filled with the most amazing cotton wool clouds…

. . . . .

If you’ve made it all the way to the end, thanks for reading! It’s been lovely having a cup of tea with you! ♥

Read Full Post »

A Waste Reduction Plan

“We’re on a mission to cut our household waste”, I told my old friend Jeanette over coffee last week.

She grinned and said, “I noticed!”

I had to laugh. I forget how often my enthusiasms bubble over onto my blog. So I thought I’d give you a full update on where we’re at right now, in January, and then provide progress reports as the year goes on.

Interestingly, up until the beginning of this year, I actually thought we were doing quite a good job. We were separating our recyclables, feeding our vegetable trimmings to the chooks and worms, and I always shopped with a furoshiki and a KeepCup in my bag. About ten years ago, our local council had replaced the red wheelie bins on our street with half-sized ones, and we’d managed that transition without too much difficulty. Having said that, our bin was still full at the end of every week.

This year, inspired by a growing awareness of just how serious the environmental problems associated with plastic and excess waste are, we resolved to do better. Here are some of the changes we’ve made.

. . . . .

Furoshiki, beeswax wraps, mesh bags

I’ve already written separate blogposts on these topics, so I won’t rehash them here, but suffice to say that we’re trying to avoid bringing plastic bags home wherever possible. This has actually been an easy change to make – both the furoshiki and the mesh bags are small and lightweight, and add very little bulk to my handbag…

The beeswax wraps have proven to be very successful. I’ve had to dedicate a couple just to smelly cheeses, as the aroma impregnates the cloth, but that doesn’t seem to impact their efficacy. We’ve been particularly surprised by how well sourdough loaves keep in a beeswax wrap – the crust turns very hard, but the crumb stays tender for days.

I clean these by wiping them down with a wet, clean dishcloth and hanging them up to dry. If they’re a bit grotty, I wash them under cool running water with a little dishwashing liquid. So far, so good…

Small Man, bless him, asked me for a beeswax wrap for his lunch the other day. He was very pleased not to have to throw out a paper bag after eating…

Here are the links to my earlier posts:

. . . . .

Knitted Dishcloths

Lovely Rose sent me a batch of these five years ago, and I’ve used them ever since. I eventually learnt to knit my own out of Australian cotton. They’re absolutely brilliant – mine go into the washing machine with towels and tea towels (and now napkins) and after years of daily service, I’m yet to have one wear out.

We use them in place of paper towels wherever possible, and they’re great for scrubbing the stove, wiping down benches and cleaning up spills…

kdc2

I wrote about them in 2015 (link is here), and posted my favourite knitting pattern here. And if you’re a beginner knitter, let me reassure you that a simple garter stitch square will work just as well!

. . . . .

Cloth Napkins

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve recently sewn cloth napkins from coarse-weave Japanese cotton tea towels (tenegui). I’ve had to make a lot – in order to work around our laundry cycle, we need at least a couple of dozen on rotation. It does make us realise how many paper napkins we must have gone through each week! The print on the cotton is fading very quickly, but the fabric seems to be holding up well and I still haven’t had to iron anything. It’s quite peaceful to sit and fold napkins for a few minutes in the morning…

. . . . .

Recycling Soft Plastic

My clever neighbour Maude told us about REDcycle, a recycling service for soft plastic. They have drop off bins outside most Coles and Woolworths supermarkets. We now separate all our clingfilm, plastic bags, onion net bags and general soft plastic waste, and drop it off once a week (or Maude takes it for us, because she seriously is the best neighbour ever). You can read more about REDcycle here.

Having said all that, we’re still trying to cut back as much single-use plastic as we can through other means. Recycling requires a huge energy input, so the goal is always REDUCE-REUSE-RECYCLE, in that order.

. . . . .

Bokashi Bin

So…whereas I was concerned about how much plastic we were discarding, Pete was fretting over all the food scraps we were throwing away.

We’re not talking about edibles so much (between us and the chooks, we’re pretty good at getting through most of what we buy and cook), but all the leavings which couldn’t go into the worm farm, such as bones, cooked stock veg, citrus and alliums. Pete did some research and found the Bokashi system – a method for breaking down all kitchen food waste (raw and cooked), so that it was in a form that could be composted and then either fed to the worms or buried.

It’s too hard to explain in full here, but I’d encourage you to Google “bokashi” and read up about it if you’re interested. We’re only a couple of weeks into the process, so I can’t really tell you how well it works yet, but I’ll keep you posted. What I can tell you is that I made Pete take it outside and leave it on the back deck, because it does produce a noticeable aroma…

. . . . .

1 Million Women

Discovering 1 Million Women has been a great source of inspiration to work harder at reducing our green footprint. It’s definitely worth following their blog and social media feeds (here are direct links to their Twitter and Instagram accounts). I initially came across them while looking online for a method of making beeswax wraps. Recently, they challenged readers to mind map out their green plan. Here’s what I came up with…

. . . . .

KeepCup

I bought my little piccolo KeepCup in August last year and since then, it’s been everywhere with me (even San Francisco). I’ve had to replace the lid after twisting the stopper off in a weird way (my error), but otherwise it’s been perfect. According to 1 Million Women, most takeaway coffee cups are lined with plastic and therefore can’t be recycled, so reusable really is the way to go (and they reckon that if we all switched, 500 billion cups would be saved from landfill every year)…

My KeepCup lives in my handbag as much as possible, not just for coffee, but also for the odd occasion when I need a drink of water. Because it’s so little and lightweight, it takes up very little room. And if I ever forget, I try to sit down for a decaf rather than getting takeaway.

As an aside, it was encouraging to see this sign on the Single Origin Roasters stall at Carriagework Markets today…

. . . . .

So…that’s where we’re at right now. And even though we’re only one month into 2018, it seems to be making a difference already! When Small Man was taking the bins out this week, he rushed back in very excitedly and said, “Mum! The bin was empty! I’ve never seen it empty before on a Thursday night!” Sure enough, the only thing to go in was one small kitchen bin bag, and even that wasn’t full…

I’ll keep you all posted on how we go throughout the year, particularly regarding the Bokashi bin (Pete is quietly optimistic). And I’d love to hear your green plans or any eco-friendly tips you might have! ♥

Read Full Post »

Last weekend, I taught a couple of friends how to bake sourdough from scratch.

Over the course of the morning, I discovered that as a face to face teacher, I have limitations. I try to provide a lot of information, which can be difficult to take in fully during a few hours on a Saturday morning. Sometimes it works well – Helen sent this photo of her first solo loaf the following day, and it was perfect

A couple of days later, I had a text from my other friend which began with…“Ok, so the Japanese tea towel caught fire..”

Hmm. I thought I’d better write notes.

I’ve written several sourdough tutorials over the years – our original Overnight Sourdough Tutorial, which I wrote in 2014, is still one of the most popular posts on our blog. Following that came our High Hydration Overnight Tutorial in 2016, which was almost as popular. But the way I make my dough is constantly evolving – the High Hydration tutorial adopted the newer trend of using a much smaller proportion of starter to flour, and I’ve reduced it even further after reading Emilie’s excellent book, Artisan Sourdough Made Simple.

So this blog post is a rundown on how I’m teaching my friends to make sourdough in 2018. I’ve cheated a bit and used notes and photos from our previous tutorials – the method has been tweaked, but it’s still basically the same. There are also a couple of new videos showing the current shaping and slashing techniques I’m using.

. . . . .

An integral part of the process is the baking of the dough in an enamel roaster. This makes a world of difference to the finished loaf. If you haven’t already invested in one, they’re very affordable, especially compared to enameled cast iron. You can buy the Wiltshire brand at David Jones, or the Falcon brand at Peters of Kensington. If you’re in the US, there are heaps available on Amazon at very reasonable prices…

. . . . .

Begin with your starter bubbly and active. Start feeding it up about eight hours before you need it. Don’t even contemplate making dough if it doesn’t look like this. Test it by putting a small spoonful into a glass of water – if it’s ready, it will float.

Please, please, please read this post on how to feed and care for your starter…

Start at least an hour before you’re ready to go to bed and measure out 100g of bubbly starter into a large mixing bowl…

Add 700g of cool or room temperature water…

Add 1kg bakers or bread flour…

Add 18g fine sea salt…

With a clean hand, squelch everything together, then scrape off your hand and cover the dough with a shower cap or tea towel. Let it sit on the bench for half an hour or so…

ostn6

After the dough has rested, uncover it and give it a quick knead (for about a minute or so)…

Cover the dough with a shower cap, beeswax wrap or wok lid and leave it on the bench overnight.

The following morning, it will look like this (but without the speckly bits as I no longer add wholemeal – sorry, it’s a recycled photo)…

ostn9

Dust the bench really well with fine semolina (rye flour, rice flour or just bakers flour will also work). Scrape out the dough…

ostn9a

It will be soft and puffy, and a bit sticky…

ostn9b

Now here’s the trick…using your spatula, scrape under the dough on one side and stretch it up…

ostn9c

Fold it over the top of the dough…

ostn9d

Repeat with the other side…

ostn9e

Do the same thing with the bottom part of the dough…

ostn9f

And again with the top section…

ostn9g

These four folds enclose all the sticky bits of the dough inside, leaving a completely semolina dusted (and therefore much easier) exterior to work with…

ostn9h

Using your spatula, divide the dough in half.

A note at this point: I have a large oven and several enamel roasters, so I always bake at least two loaves at the same time (usually three). If your oven can only fit one loaf at a time, you can either make a half batch, or divide the dough in two and return one half to the covered mixing bowl. Begin preshaping the second loaf when you place the first loaf into the oven…

ostn9i

Shape each half into a rough ball by folding the edges into the middle…

. . . . .

. . . . .

Leaving the dough balls seam side up, dust the tops with semolina…

ostn9k

Cover with a clean tea towel and allow the dough to rest for about 15 minutes. This preshaping process makes the dough much easier to handle…

ostn9l

Uncover the dough and flatten each ball, then shape them into oval loaves. I do this by folding the edges in at the top and bottom, then folding the dough in half. Here’s a new video of my current shaping technique…

. . . . .

. . . . .

Place each shaped loaf onto a sheet of parchment paper, seam side down, then cover them with the tea towel again and allow them to prove for a further 30 – 60 minutes…

ostn9m

Alternatively, you could put them into tea towel lined bannetons – roll the shaped loaves gently in fine semolina first if you’re planning to do that, and put them gently into the baskets seam-side up (you’ll invert them out onto the parchment paper later).  Let the dough rise for a further 30 – 60 minutes, depending on the ambient temperature in your kitchen.

At this point, turn your oven on and preheat it to 230C with fan.

Once the loaves have puffed up a bit, it’s time to slash. If the dough is in bannetons, turn it out carefully onto parchment paper.

The easiest thing to do is to make just one long slash down the side, and it’s a technique that works well. You can use a serrated knife, a lame or a razor blade…

If you’d like to try something fancier, you might like our “half starburst” slash. Use a sharp razor if you’re going to attempt it – the single slash will be fine if made with a serrated knife, but the fancier patterns need a thinner blade. Remember to slash with panache!

ostn9o

Here’s a new video of my slashing patterns – I gave up on using a lame ages ago and now just wield my razor commando style. I end up with a lot of tiny cuts on my fingers, but I like the control…

. . . . .

. . . . .

Lifting by the sides of the parchment paper, lower each loaf into an enamel roaster. Spritz the top of each loaf with a little water, if you like (it’s not essential). Cover with the lids, then put them into the oven, reducing the heat to 220C with fan. Note that the pots are cold – I don’t think it’s necessary to preheat them.

Set the timer for 20 minutes…

ostn9p

At the 20 minute mark, uncover the pots to release any remaining steam – the loaves should be well risen and just starting to brown. Leaving the lids off, rotate the pots, then close the oven again and set the timer for a further 20 minutes…

ostn9q

After the second 20 minutes, the crust will be dark brown and crisp. At this point, I pull the loaves out of the oven and let them cool on a wire rack. If you’d like the loaves darker, take them out of the pot and place them directly on the rack for a further 5 – 10 minutes.

Here’s a photo taken from our cooking class…

The finished loaf should feel light and crusty. It will sound like a hollow drum when tapped on the bottom. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing…

ostn9t

Here are the loaves I slashed in the video above…

I’ve found that the loaves keep well for a couple of days in a beeswax wrap

If you’re new to sourdough, I hope you’ll give this method a go. I don’t have any starter to share at the moment, but lovely Emilie’s book has clear instructions on how to grow your own, and I believe she’s also selling her starter Dillon via mailorder. Have fun! ♥

Read Full Post »

Reverse Garbage is a fabulous industrial reuse centre located within the Addison Road Community Centre in Marrickville. This not-for-profit co-operative was established in 1974 and it’s been a significant part of my life for over twenty years now. Given that I worked there part-time when Small Man was in kindergarten, I’m surprised that I haven’t written a post about them before.

Most of their stock is donated clean industrial surplus that might otherwise have ended up in landfill. It changes constantly – one day you might find a barrel of arms from sunglasses, on another day, a pile of scrap fake fur, and on yet another, a box of moulds for casting silver jewellery. It’s the kind of place that you need to visit with an open mind and few expectations.

When I popped in earlier this week, there were mannequins galore…

There were also some great treasures to be had, including these UPS (Universal Power Supply) units, a donation from the NSW Police. Pete was quite chuffed when I brought a couple home, as they’re $200 – $300 new. I’m still not sure what they’re used for…

I, on the other hand, was very happy to find these John Olsen limited edition lithograph prints (they even have an embossed seal of authentication) selling for just $2 (yes, two dollars!) each. There are still a few copies left if anyone is interested – the painting is Entrance to the Siren-City of the Rat Race (1963)

We found a cheap poster frame at the Reject Shop (there weren’t any at Reverse Garbage, sadly), and now have new wall art for very little outlay. It’s a depiction, Olsen-style, of Sydney Harbour and the colours match our dining room beautifully…

My final purchase of the visit was a cheap roll of curtain lace. There was a lot on offer and you could buy cut yardage for just $2 per metre…

I also found shoelaces in the bag area (where items are priced individually rather than in bulk) which were perfect for drawstrings (they were leftovers from World AIDS Day, hence the red ribbons). These mesh bags for fruit and vegetables were quick and easy to sew and cost me less than 20c each…

I scribbled out my pattern in case anyone would like to make their own…

It was a doddle to whip up a few extra to share with friends and neighbours…

During my time working at Reverse Garbage, I learnt one important environmental lesson – reuse is always better than recycling. Here’s what the RG website has to say about the matter:

Reuse makes sense as it: prolongs the life of a resource; saves the energy and materials needed to produce brand new materials; prevents otherwise useful resources going to waste/landfill; creates less air and water pollution than if it were recycled; and reduces money spent on new items and costs to dispose.

I think one of the dangers we face when trying to reduce our green footprint is the mistaken assumption that recycling can provide a cure-all for our excess output. Sure, it’s massively better than waste ending up in waterways or landfill, but the processes involved require a great deal of water and energy.

Places like Reverse Garbage attempt to pull clean waste out of the system before the recycling stage, making it available to the public at reasonable prices for creative reuse. It’s definitely an idea worth supporting!

PS. This website has links to reuse centres around the world (thanks Eva!) and here’s a link to Scrapstores in the UK (thanks Kim!).

. . . . .

Reverse Garbage
Addison Road Community Centre
8/142 Addison Road
Marrickville NSW 2204
02 9569 3132

9am to 5pm – Monday to Saturday
9am to 4pm – Sundays
Closed public holidays

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: