Monthly Archives: April 2011

Gift Challenge: Easter Success!

So Easter has come and gone, and the long, long, long weekend has too (Sparky unfortunately had to work, so it wasn’t so long here, but we made the most of it nonetheless) and I’m happy to report that I didn’t stumble at the first gift challenge hurdle. I ended up gifting everyone with homemade presents this year!

I just made up little parcels for each of the families and included homemade chocolates in different colours/flavours, as well as some homemade Easter biscuits – some were Easter eggs with marshmallow in the centre, others were chocolate-dipped and others had 100s and 1000s sprinkled on top. By all accounts (mine included – I had to sample the merchandise first) they were pretty tasty!


I already posted on my chocolate making, and the recipe for the biscuits was super easy. It was actually the first time I’d made cookie-cutter biscuits before so the dough-rolling part was new to me, but simple all the same. Here’s the recipe if you’re keen to try it some time:

You’ll need:

125g butter, cubed
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup plain flour
1 cup SR flour

1. Preheat oven to 160C and line two trays with baking paper.

2. Cream the butter and sugar. Then add the egg and vanilla, beating well. Fold in the combined flours, forming a soft dough. (Mine was quite crumbly at this stage, but when I kneaded it together it stuck well).

3. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of baking paper, kneading/rolling it together to get a good dough consistency. Cover with another sheet of baking paper and roll out to around 5mm thick.

4. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters and pop onto your prepared baking trays.

5. Bake in batches for around 10-15 minutes or until golden.

To make the marshmallow filling you need:

bag of marshmallows, halved (although this depends on the size of your biscuits, larger ones probably would need a whole marshmallow)

1. Pop a few biscuits on a plate and top with a marshmallow. Microwave for 10 seconds and then sandwich with another biscuit. Easy, sticky and tasty!

Happy-Making: Four Years

Sparky is the ultimate happy-maker.

*Cue groans*

Fromage-fest aside, I hope you all have wonderfully, fabulous long, long, long (if you’re in Australia or NZ) weekends. We are, of course, painting, chilling on our finished deck (hurray!), eating soup, having a picnic, baking bread and (maybe) hot cross buns, cleaning up the backyard and generally soaking it up. Should be all sorts of nice.

Happy Easter! xxx 

Green Cleaning Toolkit: Vinegar

image by Mattia Valerio

The next installment in my Green Cleaning Toolkit is: V for vinegar. (You can see previous posts here.)

I have already posted about some of the top uses for vinegar around the house, but as it is the one ingredient I use multiple times every single day, I think it definitely requires its own Toolkit post.

I buy my white vinegar in 4L bottles from the supermarket for about $1.50. This usually lasts me between one and two weeks, so it’s pretty good value. I’m on the lookout for somewhere I can buy it in bulk, to save on packaging, but so far I can only find it by the huuuge drumload.

Cleaning Uses:

General Purpose Cleaner – Dilute 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water and keep it in a spray bottle. You can use this and a damp cloth to clean just about everything. I use it to clean the bathroom vanity, the bath, the tiles (unless they need a heavy clean), the kitchen benchtops, the cupboard doors, the sink (unless it needs a scrub, then I use lemon and bi-carb).

High-Strength Cleaner – Keep straight white vinegar in another spray bottle and use it as a cleaner on stubborn marks like the bath ring or soap scum on tiles. Just spray thoroughly, leave for 15 minutes, wipe over the dirt with a damp cloth, rinse and dry. This is also really good to clean that greasy, dusty layer you get in the kitchen sometimes – particularly on the rangehood or the oven door.

Disinfectant/Cleaner – Spray all over your toilet with vinegar when you spray the bowl (remember the borax and vinegar toilet cleaner?) and leave it till you clean the bowl. This acts both as a disinfectant and cleaner for the loo. You can also spray your wooden and plastic chopping boards with straight vinegar, leaving it for a few minutes, then rinse and dry. This disinfects and gets rid of oniony smells.

Floor Cleaner – When we had our oiled floors laid during the reno, the floor guy told us to clean the floors using a bucket of warm water, half a cup of methylated spirits and half a cup of vinegar. That works a treat with the oil finish, but before the reno when we had floors sealed with polyurethane, I used a squirt of Morning Fresh liquid and a cup or so of vinegar in the bucket and that was really effective too. I think the vinegar cuts down on any soapy build-up and makes the floor lovely and shiny.

Laundry Uses:

Softener/Freshener – I add about a quarter of a cup of vinegar to every wash I do, with the exception of the fabric nappies (the vinegar can effect their absorbency), and it softens and freshens the laundry so much. I can tell if I don’t use it, particularly with the linen as it feels all scratchy and rough. And despite the smell of vinegar when you first put it in the washing machine, you really can’t smell it much once it’s been washed, and not at all once the laundry is dry. Apparently, adding some vinegar to the wash can help alleviate eczema in those who have skin reaction to laundry powder too. I used to wash Isla’s clothes in Lux flakes and vinegar before I discovered castile soap.

Other Uses:

Toy Cleaner – Spray the kids toys and board books with the 1:4 vinegar dilution and wipe over with a clean cloth. It lifts off stickiness and is a mild disinfectant too.

It really is just as easy as making one or two changes every couple of weeks, and before you even realise it, you’ll be cleaning greener and simpler. I can’t promise it will be any more fun though. Sorry.

My Gift Challenge Begins

A couple of weeks ago I challenged myself to make every gift purchase this year either handmade, homemade, vintage or repurposed. Easter is nearly upon us, and while we’re not huge on Easter gift giving here, we do have lots of nieces and nephews and couldn’t not get them something chocolatey.

So I decided to make the chocolates myself. I found some cute chocolate molds at House and bought a few packets of chocolate melts. I already had some food colouring on hand, as well as some sprinkles. It was totally time-consuming and totally delicious, but I think it was a success.

Actually, I know it was a success because we have eaten them all and I need to make another batch.

But basically I melted half a pack of melts at a time (in a double boiler situation) and coloured the white chocolate with a couple of drops of green, pink and yellow food colouring, to give that cutesy, traditional pastel feel. I also made a lot of milk chocolate eggs (much tastier than the white chocolate, I have to admit) and sprinkled the backs with different coloured ’00s and ‘000s.

Just a tip, err on the side of underfilling your molds rather than overfilling. They get a chunky looking edge to them if you over-fill.

Apologies for the lack of photos, but I was too busy licking spoons to take many shots. I’ll take some of the finished presents though, I promise!

As for packaging, I have a drawer-full of pretty paper and bags I’ve been given gifts in over the years (who doesn’t? I swear those things multiply) so I’m sure I’ll find something in there that I can use.

If nothing else, I know this exercise works out cheaper than buying Lindt bunnies for everyone. All up, I made (and consumed) enough chocolate for everyone and it cost around $20, including the reusable molds, so I’m well ahead money-wise. Just a few hours poorer time-wise!

Quickie Craft: Wool-Wrapping

Do you ever get the unshakeable urge, the deep desire to just create? You don’t know what or why, but you just need to make something. Anything. Now. Scones, a painting, a pathway, a short story, pom poms, a skirt. Whatever, just make it snappy.

Next time that urge strikes, keep this quick, cute craft in the back of your mind: wool-wrapping. I’ve seen bits and pieces about the interwebs and thought I’d give it a whirl while Isy and I were having crafty time. It’s quick, easy, repurposeful and, provided you have some wool lying about somewhere, it’s free!

You need:

a stick (pick one up off the ground or your backyard – just make sure it’s not home to any little insects) twiggy is good.
some wool (bright colours look cute, but white or grey is surprisingly sophisticated)

  1. Start at one end and wrap the wool around your stick, tucking the end of the wool in to the first few rounds, to secure it.
  2. Keep wrapping till you reach the other end. Tie a knot in the wool and trim.

The end. (See? Super easy. Tutorial really unnecessary!)

a vaseful of these will look sweet and colourful.