Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Baking Time - Bread Rolls

I had a bit of free time on Sunday so I decided it was a great opportunity to try out a recipe for bread rolls I have been wanting to use since I saw it on one my favourite new blogs ittybittyimpact.com. The actual recipe comes from another blog which is referenced from itty bitty but to make it easier for you, you can find the full recipe here.

Before I started making a mess.

I have never baked bread in my life, nor did I ever watch my mum bake bread so I knew this would be a bit of an experiment. I had never worked with yeast before so that was my biggest concern but the recipe was really easy to follow and all the ingredients were simple to find. 

Baking is so much fun. You always get to make a mess.

The only thing I changed about the recipe is that I used Mixed Grain Bread Flour instead of just white so I had a bit of extra texture and taste to it. And I'm pleased I made the switch.

The finished blob. Had to wait 2 hours for it to rise.

All cooked.

I also used itty bitty's recommendation and made 12 instead of 8 so they were a little smaller as I wasn't using them for burgers.

The finished product. Yum yum.

I am so pleased at how they turned out. There is a lot of waiting involved but it really didn't take that much effort. I'm looking forward to attempting to make an entire bread loaf next time! I also couldn't help show you my little companion who helped keep me company while I was baking.

Possum says Hi

Friday, July 15, 2011

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

When trying to live a more eco friendly lifestyle it can sometimes be hard to know where to start. There are three golden rules that you should always keep in your head to help you out. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.


Reduce the amount of plastics and rubbish that come into your house. Be a conscious shopper and only buy items with good packaging. What is good packaging? Look for packaging that is compostable, recyclable, re-usable, minimal or doesn't exist at all! Why buy vegetables wrapped in plastic if you can purchase them at your local farmers market un-packaged?

Unpackit.org.nz recently ran a competition to find the best and worst packaging on our supermarket shelves.

Potato Pak won best packaging; a 100% recyclable biodegradable takeaway container made from waste potato starch. For the last five years they have also been working on a 100% compostable coating for PotatoPak that will be suitable for meat products. Meat currently sold in supermarkets are sold on polystyrene meat trays which cannot be recycled. A compostable potato starch option could greatly reduce our daily waste.

Sunsweet Ones won worst packaging; imported from America this product provides individually wrapped prunes in plastic wrap and although a healthy option for eating shows a true excess in packaging.

Reduce the number of items you bring into your house. Living a more simple, minimalist lifestyle allows you to reduce the amount of excessive 'stuff' you have in your house.  The stuff that doesn't add value to your life but rather over-complicates it. Stop bringing that excessive 'stuff' into your house and you will greatly reduce your rubbish output at the other end.

Reduce the number of disposable items you buy. Why purchase disposable napkins or hand towels when you can buy cotton ones and wash them? Why purchase cheap shoes when you know they will fall apart in a months time and be thrown out? Why buy low quality wood furniture when you can buy high quality sustainable wood furniture that will last you a lifetime? Think about the types of products you are buying and what they are made out of. Look for long lasting, quality and sustainable products.

Reduce the number of 'I want' items you buy that will get thrown out later. That bright pink lace top might look gorgeous right now but deep down you know it will likely end up going back out the door again. And you may think you really need that little plastic Eiffel tower that you saw in the tourist shop on your trip to Paris but it will likely sit in a drawer at home until it finally finds it's way into the bin.


Think about how you can Reuse existing items instead of throwing them out. There are some great blogs out there which show brilliant ideas for how to reuse existing items. For example why not reuse containers and cans in the garden.

Reuse tools instead of having one for every task. Do you really need that new kitchen appliance? Couldn't you re-purpose one you already have? Do you really need a tool just to cut a banana, de-core an apple or peel garlic? Think before you buy. And start talking to your family and friends about the kinds of gifts you really want to get.

Reuse with others - why own when you can share? Collaborative consumption takes the focus off individual ownership and onto trading, sharing, renting and swapping.


Recycle your food scraps. Start a compost bin or worm farm to recycle your food scraps back into compost that can be used on your garden.

Recycle all your rubbish. Many people make assumptions about what they can or cannot recycle and many items that you could recycle end up in the rubbish bin. Do some research and find new ways to recycle items you would normally thrown out.

Recycle your clothes. If you've had enough of a piece of clothing or it's too small for you, donate it to a local charity or second hand clothing shop. If you haven't before why don't you buy from second hand clothing stores? You'd be surprised at some of the great things you can find. If your clothing is no longer good enough for a second hand store why not turn into a rag or turn it into something else?

Recycle your belongings. Second hand and charity shops take more than just clothes. Recycle all of those unwanted things you have in your house (and then stop those unwanted things from coming into your house in the first place).

Give to your local charity or find freecycle websites which allow you to give and receive free items that people no longer want. I got my cat scratcher this way; taking an item that sat in someone else's garage to be used everyday in my own home.

Upcycle existing belongings. Rather than simply giving them away, why don't you see if you can upcycle your belongings into something different? Need inspiration? Check out this blog entry from soulemama on how to turn an old chair heading for trash into something special.

Recycle with charities. One of my favourite websites at the moment is www.donatenz.com which matches up charities who need time or items with people who have these things to give. I was able to donate my printer I no longer used to a charity who desperately needed one. It was great to know that something that was gathering dust in my spare room was going somewhere that could put it to good use. Check out this case study of a florist who started donating their ribbon and paper off-cuts to children charities and schools.

There are so many things you can do to start making a difference. Pick just one thing you can do today and start now. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Photo credit

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Advertising is sneaky sneaky.

I often read a selection of minimalist blogs as I believe minimalism can play a role in leading an eco-consumer lifestyle. One of the topics often up for discussion is the amount of advertising that we are subjected to on a daily basis (check out this very discussion at one of my favourite minimalist blogs exconsumer.com). There are many reasons why watching a little less tv is a great thing (ability to get more active, more time available, conversations in your house start to naturally grow) and limiting the amount of advertising you are exposed to is one of these. There is no doubt that it is less tempting to buy into the current over consumption lifestyle if you are not constantly bombarded with all the new things you 'must' buy.

Now I am quite aware of the advertising technqiues used out there. Product placements and sponserships are nothing new and if you keep your mind open, you are less likely to blindly follow what you are told. However even I was impressed when I saw the latest strategy; digitally inserting new products and advertisments into old shows and re-runs. A perfect example was noted here http://consumerist.com/2011/07/dvd-cover-for-zookeeper-digitally-inserted-into-how-i-met-your-mother-rerun.html when a 2011 release movie logo was spotted on a 2007 re-run of a tv show. It is really important to be aware of the lengths advertisers will go for you to buy their products.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

Not very well it seems.....

One of my biggest dreams in starting to live a low impact lifestyle was the idea of creating my own self sustainable garden. I didn't know the first thing about gardening so I knew it would be a challenge however I had no idea how much. I live in the city and in rented accommodation so I do not have space for a true garden, however there are always containers and pots and all sorts of other options for growing vegetables.

Sadly it seems I do not have a green thumb. I have been growing vegetables (well trying to) for 6 months now and my total produce output? 5 tomatoes, 3 minute zucchini, 1 capsicum and 2 chillies. Yes that's right I can nearly count the number of items produced over 6 months on two hands. It's quite pathetic.

At the moment in my winter garden I have peas (or should I say had peas - the seedlings died), broccoli (eaten alive by snails and caterpillars so I don't know if they will recover), coriander (this seems to grow and quite happily), pak choy (quite a hardy plant I'm happy to say but often eaten by various bugs so although will continue to grow many of the leaves are inedible), mint and tyme.

My broccoli eaten alive by snails and caterpillars. Note the egg shells to deter the snails and the tin foil to try and stop the neighbours cat crapping in my pots! Somehow they are holding on though. I'll be very surprised if I see any heads  develop..
My pea seedlings were destroyed.

I will not however give up! I'm nothing if not stubborn so I will continue to grow my piddly plants in the hope that one day something will click and I'll become a gardening guru! It hasn't all been disastrous. The herbs grow quite happily in pots and my coriander and mint have been the most successful. And although my Pak Choy got a beating in it's early days it keeps growing with gusto.

Herbs don't need a lot of care in pots.
Pak Choy is one of the hardiest plants I have come across.

As you can see everything I am growing is in pots and this does increase the difficulty. Unfortunately I don't have a lot of other options. We have only a very small patch of grass at our house and as we are renting, our landlord will not allow us to dig it up, so I have to make do with learning as much as I can about container growing.

I would love to hear tips and advice from others who grow in containers. If you have a blog let me know!

Recently I read a post over at a blossoming homestead which described some of the trials they were having at growing. Until then I had been too scared to post this entry as I felt like a failure not being able to grow anything. But that post made me realise that everyone has problems and if you haven't grown up with gardens or you're not a natural then it can be tough going. But persevere and you never know what might happen.

Friday, July 8, 2011

You can't recycle that? Are you sure?!

Photo credit
Do you know all the things that can be recycled in your neighbouhood pickup? Really? Are you sure? There are many who do not realise the wide range of items that can now be recycled. Check out your local council or government website and find out. Make sure you check the codes! As not all bottles are created equal ;)

In my area these are all the pastics I can recycle*.

 1 – PET
Common Uses: Soft drink and water bottles, salad domes, biscuit trays, shampoo bottles, detergent bottles, squeezy bottles, fruit punnets, fruit juice bottles, liquid soap containers, household cleaners and vitamin containers.

2 – HDPE
Common Uses: Milk bottles, vitamin containers, fruit juice bottles, detergent bottles, sunscreen bottles, shampoo bottles, dishwashing powder container and household cleaners.

3 – PVC
Common Uses: Detergent bottles.

4 – LDPE
Common Uses: Squeezy bottles, ice cream container lids and plastic plates and cups.

5 – PP
Common Uses: Dip containers, ice cream containers tubs, margarine containers, plastic plates, cups, large yoghurt containers and cutlery, and squeezy bottles.

6 – PS
Common Uses: Large yoghurt containers, yoghurt pottles, dip containers, ice cream container tubs and lids. *Does not include polystyrene meat trays, foamed polystyrene hot drink cups and polystyrene packaging

Common Uses: Squeezy bottles, plastic plates and spreadable butters

Obtained from north shore city council

Of course nothing beats making things at home and not having to recycle items like this in the first place. But if that's not possible try and keep these codes in your head when you are at the supermarket. And always check the code before you throw a container out.

*Please note that these codes are relevant in New Zealand and may differ in your own country.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Monday Baking

I had a few overripe bananas I had stashed in the freezer and I finally had some time after work to try out a banana cake recipe.

Photo credit http://www.whitcoulls.co.nz/
This one is from Annabel Langbein's book called Eat Fresh, Cooking Through the Seasons. It's a wonderful book which takes your through the season's harvets to encourage you to eat fresh, locally grown food. Most of the recipes are built up from her own garden and many of them are fantastic.

Here is the basic recipe for the banana cake:

250g softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp natural vanilla essence
4 very ripe bananas, peeled & mashed
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup hot milk
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 170degC (sorry i'm in Celcius down here). Line a 23cm cake tin.
Beat butter and sugar until creamy.
Beat in eggs, then vanilla essence, then bananas.
Dissolve baking soda in hot milk and then add to mix.
Sift in flour and baking powder and fold in.
Then spoon into cake tin and cook for 50-60mins until cooked.
Cool in tin and ice.

For the icing I took another recipe of hers which is essential butter, freshly squeezed lemon, icing sugar and hot water. So good.


And as you can see the cake has gone down a treat. I can't recommend her books highly enough and can't wait till I can get my hands on some more. I've heard great things about The Free Range Cook.