Paleo Christmas Creations

I first decided to ‘go paleo’ because I have an autoimmune disease – well, a couple, actually, is super crappy – and I read so many people in the same position had positive responses to the diet. Well, fortunately so did I, and I don’t intend ever going back to sugar, dairy or grains. However, to get fully into remission, I may need the extra nudge of a few months of AIP – autoimmune protocol – which is crazy strict and I am not looking forward to at all to be honest. So this Christmas, I shall be enjoying my last nuts, eggs etc. for a while and, although I’m aware it is counter-productive, I plan on eating enough to fully compensate for the forthcoming lack. 🙂

After spending a full year following the general paleo diet/lifestyle, I have a healthy collection of recipes. But true to form, I pretty much never follow any of them. A tweak here, a dash of something extra here….Urgh, it’s a sickness I tell you. I’m the same with a pattern or really any type of specific instruction. Not sure if that’s actually a sign of creativity or just passive aggressive rebellion…meh. Either way. 🙂

My favourite paleo chefs/cooks include Pete Evans, Diane Sanfilippo and Sarah Ballantyne. I also love Nom Nom Paleo, PaleOMG and Elana’s Pantry. I tend to read the recipes like a story, see how the parts make the whole, then go and experiment. So the following are not recipes as such, these are just my Christmas baking experiments this week, and I’ve included the links to what they’re roughly based on, if indeed they are based on anything at all.

First up was my favourite almond nougat cookies.

http://www.cheeseslave.com/paleo-christmas-cookies/

These are YUM, easy to make, you just mix it up, form into logs and freeze, and when you’re ready to bake you just slice off rounds. Like normal cookie dough but without grains, dairy or sugar. I don’t why the picture on that website looks like it does, they look nothing like that. And you can’t really flatten frozen rounds with a fork? Anyhow, for Christmas I added extra nuts and lots of spices to these, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and cloves. I can’t describe how good they smell when they’re baking! 🙂

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I make my own almond meal with a grinding blade in my blender. It works out a lot cheaper, and fresher too.

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M asked me a while back to make Paleo Nutella….I figured it couldn’t be that hard? Roasted hazelnuts, coconut oil, cacao, maple syrup, salt, vanilla…..I experimented with those ingredients until it tasted right. I turned the hazelnuts into a smooth nut butter first before adding any other ingredients. I have a Kitchenaid food processor…a shiny red one cos obviously they go faster…..I have never actually ‘loved’ it like I thought I would, but I concede it does do a good nut butter. 🙂

So anyway, the first batch of Nutella got eaten. In two days. By me. So I actually didn’t make any more for a while after that because apparently I have absolutely no self control. But when it’s for Christmas I’m generally okay putting things away and not touching them, so I made another batch this week, then dipped them in 90 % cacao chocolate. I did eat two. They were awesome. 🙂

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Then I did some date balls. I have found that equal amounts of dates and almonds processed in the food processor makes a handy mix that is a great base for truffles, and also a perfect ‘cheesecake’ base. And easy to remember the proportions too – 1:1. To make the balls, I start with the date/almond combination and add a touch of pink salt, cacao powder, a spoonful of coconut oil and some vanilla. But you could add anything, other dried fruits, liqueur, maple syrup, coconut, whatever. I rolled half in coconut flour and half in cacao powder.

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Then on to a cake…..the frozen vegan raw cheesecake is a thing of beauty….there are recipes all over the internet for them, but the one that originally inspired me was this one.

http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2011/01/raw-cashew-dreamcake-2/

Since then I have made stacks of these, and all of them different. Chocolate, vanilla, blueberry, mango, pumpkin spice swirl….they are so yum. Here’s an old one I did.

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I don’t measure, I tend to just blend the general ingredients together and alter to taste. It’s basically a soaked cashew nut foundation, with added honey, coconut oil, vanilla and lemon juice (very important to give the cheesecake ‘tang’). You kind of get a feel for it after a while. If I’m short on mixture I will occasionally add some coconut cream to bulk it out. This Christmas I did and vanilla and chocolate spice one. Obviously can’t see much of it yet.

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And finally the gingerbread…these are based on this recipe

http://www.edibleharmony.com/paleo-gingerbread-cookies-cut-out/

With a bit of tweaking 🙂 honestly I can’t express how good they are! Gingerbread cookies are one of my favourite things at Christmas, and I was so surprised that a Paleo version could actually be BETTER than the grain and sugar filled one I had used for years before…but it was. And is.

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M requested an afro on his. I used raw cacao nibs. 🙂

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Well, considering I set this up as the Wolfberry Knits blog, there has been surprisingly little about knitting so far! That will no doubt change in the new year…I am working on a couple of patterns at the moment, here is a sneak peek of one….

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I’m still knitting my basic chic hoodie too, I really love the colour, ‘slate’, in Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 8ply.

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And as this is also a Ravensridge blog of sorts, here’s a pic of what happened here this week…a massive (and I do mean MASSIVE) storm one evening wiped out a heap of trees, including this one, which took out one of the chook houses too. Fortunately the chooks remained unharmed. They escaped and came back later in the night. Unfortunately so did a python. But M managed to evict him before any harm was done, and the house has now been temporarily patched and snake proofed once more.

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Poor old Vladimir. Rough night. (He’s a Transylvanian Naked Neck by the way, he’s meant to look like that.)

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So 2015 is going to be a particularly fun year… 2 books to finish, many more patterns to publish, a million things to knit and crochet and so far two trips organised, one to Paris and one to Helsinki……very excited!! 🙂 have been working hard on my French and Finnish. I will also be spending some more time renovating/restoring my studio, a 40ft long antique train carriage. That’s an adventure in itself and will post about that in the near future. 🙂 Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year! 🙂 xo

Handmade Christmas

I freely admit I am one of those Christmas freaks. I love it. Almost as much as I love knitting. I love the carols, the decorations, the atmosphere, the food, the whole ‘goodwill to all men’ vibe. I love a white Christmas (which I will be enjoying next year, yippee!) but I also adore the crazy, sweaty, sunny, ridiculously hot, afternoon backyard Australian Christmas.

One of the things I don’t particularly like is tinsel. So a few years ago I had a bit of a meltdown over the gazillion crappy plastic and tinselly decorations that were apparently breeding in my Christmas suitcase under the bed. Every year there were more, and they just seemed to miss the traditional Christmas spirit that I wanted to evoke at home. So I started again, but this time all recycled, handmade and/or reworked from what I had. My mother-in-law collects me all the Christmas things from the op shop she works in, where they get thrown out every year, and the rest are made by me or members of my family.
I have always loved the Scandinavian Christmas traditions, Finnish is in my blood after all, so I stick to a red and white theme. After my tinsel overdose, originally I banned all metallics too, but over the years I’ve relaxed that rule and reintroduced some.
Because I live in a little cottage here at Ravensridge, I alternate the decorations every year so we don’t drown under them. But here’s a selection of some that I put up this year.

One year I found a block of clay in the shed (as you do) so I rolled it out and cut out a heap of shapes with cookie cutters. I made the holes with a plastic straw for neatness. I baked them for a few weeks, just leaving them in the bottom of the wood oven I had at the time, which was fired up daily. They’re not properly ‘kiln fired’, but they are hard enough. Then I painted them, sticking with my red and white theme, and finally spray varnished them. I think they kind of look like gingerbread.

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I have them on my mini tabletop tree too.

Then I took all the millions of gaudy baubles I had and roughly painted them too. I love recycling, and I was pretty pleased with them. I used puff paint to create some texture on a few of them. I tried to make them look old/rustic by using watered down paints, and either a lime wash or a brown wash over them at the end, and varnished them with a matt acrylic varnish.

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Oh, and one concession to sparkly 🙂 made with sequins, beads and pins in a polystyrene ball.

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My parents had a couple of chandeliers in their last house which chewed through the lightbulbs. So yep, I painted the burnt out bulbs too. 🙂 I think these are my favourites actually, because I love glass ornaments. There’s something beautiful about the ‘clink’ they make when they touch each other, it just sounds like Christmas.

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Unfortunately, with two clutzy Devon Rex cats in this home, Atticus Finch and Dougal, glass ornaments on the tree are not an option. But I hang them elsewhere out of reach.

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(They look innocent but don’t let it fool you.)

I made the tin stars out of used tea light candle containers. I did a free tutorial/pattern for these, it’s available on Craftsy here:

http://www.craftsy.com/pattern/other/recycled-tea-light-christmas-star-/75230

I really enjoy making these. They have sharp edges though, so they’re not suitable for young kids.

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My mum does some lovely decorations too. She made our stockings, and she crochets the most gorgeous snowflakes and bells.

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I do still buy something for Christmas every year. Here in Australia the Scandinavian thing has finally caught on. This year I couldn’t resist these mugs. They make me happy. 🙂

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I can’t believe how expensive crackers are now! And everyone just chucks out the novelty in them. So I got a DIY kit back in January for $2. This way I can put in my own novelties….so far I am thinking a pen, a scratch ticket (with a 5cent piece) and a fridge magnet…

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I try to stick to homemade presents too. But that’s all a bit chaotic at the moment.

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I know, don’t say it. Eeek!

Anyway, so now the decorations are done, it is time to cook! This year will be my second Paleo Christmas. I feel like I’ve learned a lot more this year about Paleo baking, and I’m going to be a little more ambitious…..

🙂 B

Art Journalling

We are home again, back to our tiny cottage in the bush, back to my train and all my other projects. It was a magical holiday to Vanuatu. Up there for me as one of the most relaxing ever. Also a great time of the year to go as it turns out, with few tourists (apart from on cruise ship days) and pretty good weather.

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The fruit salad we made every day with fruit from the local market was AMAZING. I have never tasted fruit like it!

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So with markets and flower stalls and islands and jungles and snorkelling coves to explore, there was a lot to take in, and I was glad I brought my little travel sketching kit. I set it up to fit in a passport holder that I picked up on ebay for about 10 bucks.

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And inside it has everything needed for a quick sketch and paint.

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I absolutely love the cute mini watercolour paint tin by Daler Rowney. And the Pentel waterbrush is awesome! I never knew such a thing existed until I did an online art journalling course. You fill the body of the brush with water, and that’s all you need for painting with watercolours. You squeeze gently for more water, and to clean you just wipe it on a piece of paper towel. It is fantastic for travelling, but also I tend to use it at home now too, simply for the convenience.

As for the art journalling……I did two courses online, and I have to say I just don’t get it. ‘Sweep the paint over the page, draw this outline here, fill this bit in with text, stamp this over here….’ Ummm, okay. It just felt like glorified scrap booking without the photos. I don’t deny the results can be pretty, and it is fun trying out new techniques and products, I guess I just don’t understand the actual point of the journal format.
So that’s why I made mine a ‘travel’ journal rather than an art journal. I can do quick sketches, sign and date them, and I have a perpetual reminder of a time and place. It is different from a photograph in that you have to sit in that space for longer with a different frame of mind, you have to see the shapes and the lines and the textures, watch the light and the shadows. You feel the breeze on your skin while you sketch the leaves moving in front of you….there is just nothing like it to me. 🙂 as for my kit, it was a great size to chuck in my luggage, and I am really happy with it. Next stop………springtime in PARIS!! But that’s another post altogether. 🙂

Hello from Vanuatu!

Although I’m starting this blog as a record of my creative adventures, it so happens that this week I’m in Vanuatu. And totally in love with it.

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Seriously, what’s not to love? The people, the food, the environment, the culture, the climate, all of it amazing. This is a ‘relax’ holiday for M and me after a hectic and at times draining year, and so far it is the perfect recharge. I’m an early riser anyway, but 4am in Vanuatu is spectacular.

That’s not to say I have left the projects at home of course. As if. In fact I have started a new one while I’m here, the Basic Chic Hoodie in Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 8 ply.

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Also am keeping a little travel journal. Tiny watercolour pics in a book I made myself after doing a bookbinding course online. It was only my first go at a book, so it’s a bit dodgy.

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Okay, so not much done yet. Will see how I go this week. Today we’re off to the Harbourside markets again to grab more fruit and veg (surprisingly easy to be Paleo here, even the restaurants have flat out Paleo options, which makes a nice change!), and then perhaps a snorkelling tour.