Random Lunch Recipe: Pear Salad

Because it’s autumn here and this was just the thing for a lovely, sunny, bright and breezy day 🙂

Ingredients (per person)

A large double handful of baby spinach leaves, torn
1 beurre bosc pear (or one with similar soft texture), cubed
50g of soft feta (more or less), crumbled
1T pecans, roughly crushed
1T black cherry vinegar*
1 med-large strawberry
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Finely chop or puree strawberry with vinegar. Let steep. Meanwhile, combine all other ingredients and gently toss. Pour over vinegar, season and consume 🙂

Alternatives

* Good quality balsamic vinegar should be a passable substitute for black cherry vinegar.
Try walnuts instead of pecans, apples instead of pears, or parmesan instead of feta.

Things I Really Need To Bake

Blame it on pregnancy cravings, or the fact that I’ve been too sick to do much cooking in the last 5 months, or a stress-induced desire for comfort food, or the search for procrastination, or anything else you like, but the fact of the matter is the last few weeks have been one giant, continuing saga of OHMYGOSH THIS THING I MUST BAKE.

Obviously, the whole being-sick-and-exhausted-because-growing-new-minion thing has put a damper on my abilities to actually DO any of this cooking, and the list of things I desire to make is growing to such proportions that I’m going to start forgetting things if I don’t write them down soon. Which, on the one hand, so what, but on the other: LIST-MAKING EXCUSE FOR THE WIN!! I love me a good list after all. And because I’m a) a sharing-and-caring kind of person, and b) am attempting to post more regularly on The Blog, you get to share the list too. Ha.

If you do end up making anything off the list, I’d love to know how it goes 🙂 But without further ado:

Amy’s List Of Things I Really Need To Bake

1) A really good Laos curry. Or Thai, at a pinch. But it has to be GOOD. After visiting Laos/Thailand with school in 2013, I’ve fallen in love with good, proper, authentic southeast Asian cooking, but my tolerance for mediocrity in this food genre is low, and finding the good stuff near where I live seems nigh impossible. So: I need to learn to cook it myself.

2) Good spring rolls. Ditto the above.

3) Sweet potato and feta frittata, which I used to make all the time and is the best lunch snack ever, but which I literally have not made in yeeeeears.

4) Cream potato bake, which is in the same category as (3) but is also, like, the ultimate comfort food. (I mean c’mon, it’s potatoes, cream and cheese with a bit of spice. How is this NOT the ultimate comfort food?)

5) Chocolate peppermint creams, because Mint Slices are my favourite biscuits* in the whole entire world, so a homemade version? OM NOM NOM.

* Cookies, for those from America 😉

6) Blood orange oil brownies, because Liana Brooks kept mentioning them on twitter 😛

7) Scones, preferably of the pumpkin or cheese variety. Maybe these ones from Smitten Kitchen (which, yes, American terminology says biscuits :P).

8) Jam doughnuts, preferably these ones.

9) Homemade ice cream. Any variety, I’m not too fussed. The only thing holding me off here is a present lack of freezer space.

10) Bread rolls, or scrolls, or a pull-apart, or all of the above. Just, fresh, homemade, devourable bread.

And in addition to all that, at some point this week or next I need to do a practice cake. Little sister’s birthday is coming up and she has requested a pear and white chocolate mud cake, for which recipes apparently don’t exist 😛 Which is fine, I like making up my own just fine, but given it’s a Big Birthday I do need to do a test run first. In terrible news, it will also necessitate making a batch of salted caramel buttercream, which OH NOES WORLD IS ENDING, clearly, because you guys? The caramel recipe I use seriously tastes like the inside of Fantales lollies, for those of you who’ve ever eaten such things. It is glorious; truly, truly glorious.

So. That’s my to-bake list. If I can summon up some energy at some point, I’ll make said items and post pictures and recipes and trivia when I do. But for now, I’m going to go find something quick and easy to eat for lunch, before my blood sugar levels drop to zero 😛 😀

~Amy

Clothing Disposal

It’s funny how once you begin to question what you put in your mouth, on your body, and into your environment, there comes a point where one day it’s just a habit. The other day, I did another big sweep through my clothing – I’m a little sick of the floordrobe, but the primary reason for it is the lack of space to really put everything away. Might as well stay on the floor, right?

So anyway, as much fun as the facebook clothes declutter was last time, where I took pics of all the clothes, posted to FB, and people commented to claim the clothes, it took forever to get all the unwanted clothes out of the house. So this time I just bagged them all up and sent them to the wotsie shop. Charity. Secondhand clothes. You know the place I mean.

But, I still had a small pile of clothes that really weren’t fit for the charity bin, so I was just going to toss them. I was putting away Small Person’s folding earlier today and did some reshuffling of the drawers to fit in his cloth nappies. Dude, the kid has more bibs than hairs on his head. I pulled out all the small ones and tossed them in the ‘small clothes’ box behind his chair, but a couple were manky enough that I figured the fastest means of disposal was the rag bag. I have to keep up the supply of rags to the rag bag, see, or darling husband does things like nabbing good teatowels for the purpose. Or my singlet top. Though granted, that had somehow been mixed up IN the rag bag, so he’s forgiven for that one.

So. I chopped the straps off the bibs to make is super clear that HELLO, THESE ONES ARE THE RAGS, and while I was doing so it occured to me that I could do the same to the clothes I was otherwise going to bin. I picked them up to begin chopping – and stopped. Could I really condemn these clothes, just like that? Some, apparently yes. A bra went in the bin, because no one wants a secondhand bra and they’re not really great rags, but everything else I forced myself to take a second look at.

Pair of pants that are wearing out in the thigh seams? Well, they have to be rags, right? *snipsnip*, off came the legs – and I realised that I was now left with a perfect good pair of brown cut-off shorts, only in need of a hem.

Black knitted 3/4 sleeve top, with a cute keyhole in the back? REALLY didn’t want to toss this one, as i’d only worn it once, but the fabric had broken under one of the arms. probably, I could learn how to darn and fix it – but that’s a little too much effort. So, the sleeves had to come off at least – and after they did, I realised I had a sleeveless tank top, if I could bind up the armholes again. Or, I could buy a little bit of black chiffon or something nice and floaty and make some pretty ruffley cap sleeves for the top.

Ditto the pink turtleneck jumped that’s seen better days and is nearly worn through under the arms – off with the sleeves, and I’m going to investigate about putting in some new ones (or just leaving it sleeveless). I might not keep this one, but at least I’ll have made something nice enough to go to the op shop :o)

A cotton t-shirt that was worn through became a genuine rag, as did a pair of fuzzy socks (snipped through at the heel so Husbands can confirm their rag status!!). Two 3/4 sleeve knitted tops that I love, but that were looking daggy, were slated for the bin, but I realised one of them will probably be okay with some serious depilling, and one, which is luckily white, might actually come good with a bit of a soak in some bleach.

I don’t really have much more of a point to this post, except to say – hey, you know what? Of all the items of clothes I was just going to bin, I actually found a use for all but the bra. And if the sewing works out, I might even have a couple of ‘new’ items of clothing that I’ll actually like wearing :o) Now there’s a happy declutter win! 😀

What To Do When You’re Feeding An Army…

…at home, and you lack the flatware for everyone to eat off. Seriously, guys: this is an AWESOME IDEA. If we hadn’t just had a massive dinnerware set donated to us, I’d totes be doing this next time I needed to feed a bunch of people 😀

(seriously, read the link – it’s cheaper than disposable plates and so insanely clever it almost feels like you’re doing something illegal…)

http://theyearofless.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/day-87-better-than-disposable-dishware.html

Flame Retardants (But Don’t Freak Out)

Look, in the interest of a) actually getting this post, which has been sitting in drafts for a week, posted and b) preserving the spirit of this blog, which is very much a place for me to just hang out, and not feel pressure to be official and all, I’m just going to fudge this a bit. If you’re interested, a quick google will bring heaps of hits, and read the links at the end of the post.
Basically, because of a whole bunch of legislation, a LOT of stuff in AU/US is required by law to have flame retardants in it. Now, I’m not against this idea, because I appreciate my laptop not blowing up on my lap or a plane exploding in midair as much as the next person – but things can go too far, which I think is where babies’/children’s clothing fits in. If you look at the stats, only a very small number of children die from burns each year (and each death is tragic, I fully acknowledge that). Also, the majority of ‘injuries’ from fire, esp house fires, are smoke-related, not flame-related.

Despite this, governments like ot be seen to be doing things, and it’s now a legal requirement that children’s and babies’ sleepwear be doused in flame retardant chemicals – which is all well and good until you do the research and see that these chemicals are increasingly being found to be detrimental to human health generally, implicated in delayed development and developmental disorders, and potentially carcinogenic – especially brominated FRs. Wanna know why we’re seeing so many more cancers in our modern age? I’m betting our longer life spans are not actually the only reason, and that the increasing useage of chemicals and plastics in our everyday lives are related. Do the research (hi, google scholar) – I’m not the only one who thinks so. Obvs, because I had to read about all this SOMEWHERE 😛

Flame retardants aren’t just in kids’ clothing – they’re in aeroplanes, electronics, drapery, carpets, and upholstered furniture. So, growing people, who have a higher surface to mass ratio and a higher food-ingested to mass ratio than adults, and are comparative fragile and susceptible, spend the majority of their lives surrounded by these lovely flame retardants (FRs). Mm, sounds like a sensible plan to me.

So, I was kind of freaking out about this, after having spent about a month ignoring it since I first stumbled acorss it, because really, what can I do? Stop buying upholstered furniture, toss our new lounge (oh yeah, THAT would go down well), buy only organic clothing, rip up all the carpet… Shelve that in the ‘too hard’ basket!!!

But, instead of freaking out I told myself to put on my mature, responsible adult hat and FIGURE OUT WHAT I ACTUALLY COULD DO. So, here’s what you can do if you’re interested in minimising exposure to all sorts of fun-time chemicals.

  • In the US, items manufactured post-2005 are not as likely to have the FRs in them, so if you’re up for new furniture, #win.
  • Wash clothes with soap rather than detergent and soak overnight in either 50/50 vinegar/water or 4 litres (1 gallon) water with 1 cup lemon juice.
  • For clothing, buy secondhand (FR lose their effectiveness after a year or so) or buy organic.
  • Wash hands regularly to prevent ingestion of chemicals picked up in handling everyday items.
  • Vacuum regularly, esp with a HEPA filter. (Yeah, need to work on that one. Vacuuming is the household chore most likely to induce perfectionism-paralysis in me, so I tend to avoid it until absolutely necessary :S)
  • Try to avoid buying furniture with foam – opt for wood, or furniture stuffed with polyester, down, wool or cotton.
  • For upholstered furniture, try to buy furniture that is tightly upholstered and where the foam is wrapped inside the seat cushions – extra layers mean extra barriers to FR seepage/gassing off. For other foam products (car seats etc), try to ensure the foam is completely wrapped, and for all foam products, replace as soon as the foam starts wearing out/breaking down. Don’t reupholster foam furniture. (Urgh, the feeding chair in small person’s room – totes need to make an internal cover for the seat cushion.)
  • Avoid letting children/babies mouth electronics. (Presumably avoid letting anyone mouth electronics :P) (Also urgh, because he was totes doing this at the parental’s house today)
  • Minimise use of carpetting and drapery (not always practical, but I guess at least try to avoid letting the kids eating these? Soak drapes in 50/50 vinegar/water where possible? And vacuum regularly…)
  • Be careful when removing old carpet underlay – try to contain the area and vacuum with a HEPA filter regularly to prevent particles spreading.
  • When purchasing new, opt for naturally fire-retardant fibres (eg leather – #win; the lounge we bought last December is leather), or, if you can’t avoid FRs altogether, try to at least opt for fabrics that are ‘inherently’ FR, which means the FR has been bonded to the fabric fibers and is less likely to transfer.
  • When buying electronics, try to buy from brands that are aware of the issue and are taking steps to address it. Acer, Apple, Eizo Nanao, LG Electronics, Lenovo, Matsushita, Microsoft, Nokia, Phillips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony-Ericsson, and Toshiba Panasonic have all agreed to completely phase out brominated FRs from their phones and computers by 2011, so any new devices by these companies should be at least comparatively safe.
  • The following companies are phasing out Deca, the most common brominated culprit, but may or may not be using other brominated FRs as replacements: Canon, Daikin, Intel, IBM, HP (Hewlett Packard), Minolta, Mitsubishi, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Xerox.

So. There are some things to do that are practical and not at all freak-out ish. See me be adult. #win. Linkies below to get you started if you’re interested in the issue.

http://www.ewg.org/pbdefree

http://www.ucsfchildcarehealth.org/pdfs/factsheets/ToxicFlameRetardants_en0710.pdf (this is a PDF! download warning!)

http://www.lesstoxicguide.ca/index.asp?fetch=babycare#cloth

http://www.couriermail.com.au/spike/columnists/our-kids-silent-threat/story-e6frerex-1225859036341

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/pbdes_are_flame_retardants_safe_growing_evidence_says_no/2446/