Homemade Christmas Kindness

It’s no secret that we Kleinschmidts are crafting, cooking folk. And in my last post about Acts of Christmas Kindness, I wrote about how we love to give lots of gifts at Christmas, and many of them (and I think, sometimes the most treasured or appreciated) are handmade. Especially as our focus here is to raise kids to give and not receive, and that the gift doesn’t have to be extravagant to show love, we love to get the kids involved in making these little gifts. These could be for friends and family, you could have a basket of gifts for people who stop by over the holiday period, or they could be for your child’s teacher, the bus driver or your delivery guy. We even carry on the tradition of running a gift out to the rubbish collectors over Christmas weekend! So these ideas aren’t meant to cost the Earth, ‘just a little something’. It’s a paradox though, because on the flip side, we don’t do candy canes in every card to every student in the class… We have a really multicultural class this year, and we know some don’t celebrate Christmas. So we want to respect their beliefs, instead we are thinking of handing out Remember that ad “say it with Roses [chocolates]”, or I think the newer version are the Cadbury Favourites boxes? I would totally rather any of these below than those dreaded orange creams!

Body Stuff

This will be one of my regulars as of last Christmas! Surprise everyone, it’s scrubs again this year! There are so many ‘recipes’ for homemade body scrubs online, but I like to take one basic recipe and then tailor it to the recipient. I have so far made lavender sugar salt scrub, mocha scrub, coffee scrub, ‘Bounty’ scrub, lemon salt scrub, and choc-mint body scrub. We paired a little jar of scrub with a Norwex face cloth last year for Master AoRK’s kindergarten teachers as little end-of-year thank-you.

Homemade Body Scrub Gifts

Ingredients:

  • the bulk of your scrub, something slightly coarse: For me, it’s generally used coffee grounds (something this household has A LOT of!), Crio Brü grounds (ground cacao beans), ground salt or white sugar. If you are using spent coffee or Crio Brü grounds in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to mix. You can always use a combination of the above, I tend to use fine salt or sugar scrubs for face scrubs as our coffee is a little too coarse.
  • the oil. Mine is always coconut oil, and i buy it in bulk. You could certainly add some jojoba, almond, apricot or a light olive oil as they are all lovely for the skin. I avoid almond to ensure it’s appropriate for families with nut sensitivities.
  • something to personalise: As mentioned, essential oils are wonderful, but you will need to do a little research as to what is safe (peppermint is not advised during pregnancy for example); herbs or flowers like rosemary, lavender or chamomile; zest of citrus fruits for a refreshing morning scrub. This year I have an idea to make Gingerbread scented ones for a Christmassy feel, and will be adding essential oils and dried spices to make it! Will let you know how that goes!

Then I just go nuts! Sterilise some pretty jars, then I fill about 1/2 to 3/4 full with the bulk grinds (use less grinds if you are adding bulkier scenting agents like flowers), add the scenting ingredients and then top with coconut oil, lids on and shake it like an Espresso Martini on date night! Add a pretty label or swing tag with the ingredients and away you go!

 

Chutneys, Relishes, Cookies & Sweets

So there are obviously a mountain of recipes out there for you to choose from when it comes to small homemade kitchen goodies. We often use Jamie Oliver’s Cheeky Chilli-Pepper Chutney, Homemade Ketchup and the barbecue sauce recipes from one of my favourite of his books “Jamie at Home”, or make a batch of Thai Capsicum Jam and they always go over well! I think the Cheeky Chilli Pepper Chutney is always a hit because it pairs so damn well with all that leftover Christmas ham! We love it with our croissants and ham on Christmas morning!

A great way to add a personal touch to homebaked gift ideas, is to give something that has traditional or sentimental significance to you or the recipient: something they have mentioned they love, or a recipe that has been passed down your family tree. There are a few other recipes that we seem to go back to year after year, one of which is the Mini Raspberry Melting Moments on taste.com.au, decorated with little holly leaves and red berry-looking choc dots on top, and another is Natural New Age Mum’s Salted Caramel Popcorn, which I love with some added pecans and peanuts! droooooool

Now, this is a favourite recipe in our house, and especially with Nana AoRK. We call it Grinch Fudge! It’s based on a Jamie Oliver Coconut Fudge recipe from December 2012 edition of Jamie Magazine, but the addition of pandan essence gives it a wonderful “Asian-vanilla” flavour (as my friend Gita describes it). A small bottle of pandan essence can be found in Asian grocery stores.
As for the name? Well those not familiar with pandan essence mightn’t know that it has a very Grinchy green hue, hence the Christmassy Grinchy name!

 Grinch Fudge! 

Ingredients:
500g white chocolate, broken up
1 tin (397g) condensed milk
40g icing sugar
100g desiccated coconut
2tsp pandan essence
extra fine desiccated coconut
This recipe would be really yummy with some chopped macadamias mixed through, in which case I would be inclined to pop them on the tray on top of the coconut, and pour the mixture over to get a fairly even spread of nuts throughout. Otherwise, chop them slightly and add with the pandan essence.

How To:
1. Start by lining a small ceramic baking tray with baking paper (we use If You Care brand – no nasties, and it can be reused).
2. Sprinkle some coconut over the paper – as much or as little as you like. This helps stop the fudge sticking to the paper, and makes a nice textural element in the soft fudge.
3. Melt white chocolate pieces and condensed milk over a low heat until melted.
4. Beat in icing sugar with electric beaters until smooth. Add pandan essence and stir again (a swirly effect would be pretty too, we generally stir to combine).
5. Pour out onto baking paper and tap the dish gently on the bench to remove air bubbles. Working quickly, smooth the surface and sprinkle with more coconut.
6. Set in the fridge for a few hours until firm. Slice into small squares with a sharp knife. Keep refrigerated.

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix

Now, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t liked this hot chocolate! This year I am going to trial a batch using rice milk powder to make a low-dairy version or use dairy-free chocolate for those who can’t have any dairy!  This recipe is adapted to be more Kleinschmidt-friendly, the original recipe by Holly Hanks (Dec 17, 2010) can be found at momitforward.com

AoRK Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix

Ingredients: 
2.5 cups white sugar
3tbs vanilla paste
1.5 cups raw organic cacao
2tbs pink salt (Himalayan, Celtic, Sea Salt etc)
1 cup rice milk powder (or milk powder of choice)
3/4 cup coconut or rapadura sugar
280g dark chocolate

How To:
1. Line a tray with baking paper (we use If You Care brand – no nasties, and can be reused).
2. Place sugar in a heavy pot and melt over a medium heat. Without stirring, swirl the pot so the toffee doesn’t catch and burn. It’s up to you how far you take it, darker = richer and sort of more bitter flavours.
3. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and whisk until smooth.
4. Working quickly, pour toffee onto the lined tray, angling the tray to allow the toffee to spread to an even thin layer. Doesn’t need to be perfect as it’s getting blitzed anyway. Allow to cool completely (an hour-ish) and DON’T TOUCH THE TOFFEE!! I have had so many burns but still need this reminder. Also, don’t lick the spoon!
5. When cooled completely, crack toffee sheet with a spoon and peel off paper. Pop into the food processor or Thermomix 10sec/sp10 until it’s a fine powder. Keep your lid/MC on until the dust settles.
6. Add cacao, salt, milk powder and sugar and mix again to combine (TMX 10sec/sp7). Scrap down.
7. Add in the choc pieces, and pulse to your desired consistency. I like to still have a couple of little choc-pebbles in my mix to scoop from the bottom of my mug, or keep pulverising to create a fine powder.

Bottle it up with a swing tag, and keep in a dry cool place. If you want to add instructions to the tag, suggest 2-3 big spoonfuls to steamed milk (cafe latte style), but Nana AoRK prefers hers just with boiled water.

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Long overdue hello, and cookie things

Hello there! Well, it sure has been quiet ‘round these parts… I admit to being very distracted with life things, volunteering and studying. One awesome thing we have been busy with, is learning how to bake with sourdough! It’s a process, let me tell you, especially trying spelt sourdough. It’s delicious and well worth the effort, but it’s tricky to handle, which gives Mr AoRK much grief as our head baker.

What or how do you sourdough?
A friend gifted us a sourdough starter a few months back (that’s the magic bubbly fermenty slurry that, for many people, improves the gut reaction to things like gluten, and gives sourdough it’s distinct flavour). It means we can make yeast-free bread, also lessening the gluten in our systems, and as a happy byproduct of making your own bread, lowering our consumption of single use plastic packaging. You feed your starter regularly and in return, can bake beautiful bread at home. You can create your own starter with just water and flour, but plenty of online Facebook groups have people offering their spare starter, so check them out if you want to jump on this good thing!

starter and seed dough

Wait, I came here for cookies, not bread!
People who love food are our kind of people!  Today I had a bit of an experiment in the kitchen and made delicious sourdough spelt cookie-muffin things…. the world is food fusion mad, so I could probably give it some fancy combo-word name, but i’d rather just eat them! And anyone who knows anything about the Kleinschmidts, knows we love to show kindness through sharing food. So I copied down the recipe, and thought I’d share it here for all you cookie-muffin lovers, sourdough bakers, and spelt converts. These are slightly crunchy on the outside, with a soft cake/muffin sort of crumb in the centre.

sourdough spelt chocchip cookieWhat Goes In:
150g wholemeal organic spelt flour
150g white organic spelt flour
95g organic golden cane sugar
10g baking powder
100g dark choc chips
110g sourdough starter
120g soft butter
30-50g milk (will vary due to flour density – add to combine)

What to do with it:
Preheat oven to 180C, line a cookie sheet.
I weighed it all in to a big bowl and mixed with a spoon until really well combined. It was slightly sticky with 50g milk so could have done with slightly less.

Roll into pingpong ball sizes and place on baking sheet, flattening ever so slightly.
Bake in 180C oven for 15-20min. They will be a little firm on the outside, golden on the bottoms, and will firm up a little more on cooling. They will be soft and a little cakey on the inside with a good bite on the outside. Delicious while still warm.
Yields around 24, best eaten within a day or two.

I reckon they’d be great with dried fruit instead of the choc chips too, or even pistachios and lime zest…. white choc and cranberry…… oh man, I am going to be baking these ALOT! I haven’t tried alternative flours, so if you give it a shot, i’d love you to comment below.

And as ALWAYS, cookies are best shared! Let me know who you love to share cookies with in the comments below xx

#snacksofrandomkleinschmidts #actsofcookiekindness

Acts of Christmas Kindness

Woo Christmas is a less than 5 weeks away, eek! We love love love us some Christmas Spirit in the Kleinschmidt house, but we know not everyone has such a great time around the holidays. Christmas can be a time of loneliness, stress and sadness for many. Obviously, we want to do something to change that!

Some of you may have already read our post about Reverse-Birthday Kindness, and this post has a similar theme:

Raising our kids in kindness,

to embrace that times of receiving and plenty,

are opportunities for giving and sharing.

So, just like our pre-birthday cleanout, our Christmas Season begins with a cleanout and donation of toys, clothes, kitchenware and homewares. All the things in good condition are forwarded on to second-hand stores or shelters where they can be re-gifted or re-used as needed.

It’s no secret, we like to give and give to many at Christmas. A couple of reasons we do this: we like everyone to feel our love and know we’ve thought of them, we like to spend our time making gifts together (we have the time that we know many people don’t), and I hope people love receiving a little bit of ‘us’. Now this doesn’t mean we expect gifts in return, but it often leaves people feeling guilty if they haven’t brought something for us!  Don’t! The one thing we would love to receive, really, is just you enjoying whatever small thing we have given! If you feel guilty, then I feel guilty, and you don’t want to do that now do you?? Do you????

Our gifts are usually homemade, and everyone has a talent somewhere that could be used for Christmas Kindness! Last year we received the most delicious bag of sweet & spicy nuts that I would happily eat every day of my life. They were THAT good! Maybe you could get a group of friends together like a working bee. Or, make this gift-making day one of the calendar activities (see below). If you aren’t the creative, artsy or cooking type, you could always do the same idea with coffee gift cards or small gifts that you really love, or even just a card. Maybe a donation on their behalf at Oxfam or World Vision? I really should do a post on hand-made gifts…. Mmmm I’ll keep you posted!

The Acts of Random Kleinschmidt Advent Calendar of Christmas Kindness!                                         Okay, the title needs some work, but I promise the intention is solid!

Another big thing our family does at Christmas time, is our Advent Calendar. When Mast AoRK was 2 I think, I decorated a lovely set of drawers (from a local scrapbooking lady, or craft store) to use as our Advent Calendar. Now here’s the kindness: each drawer contains a note card that had an Act of Kindness or activity to complete each day. They aren’t always obvious acts of kindness, but they are always something that is to be shared with friends or family or others, or to divert the attention away from receiving, to giving.

advent-calendar

 

 

Here’s a list of Acts of Christmas Kleinschmidts that we have completed in previous years:

  • Arrange a cookie/treat swap with other mums or neighbours: you each make a double batch of a favourite Christmas treat, and all get together and divide evenly so everyone gets a mixed bag of Christmas treats to enjoy over the holiday.
  • Stock up RSPCA/shelter needs (buckets, cleaning, leashes etc – check with your local shelter to see if there is something they specifically need).
  • Talking of fur-family, don’t forget to be kind to your pets! Christmas dress-ups for dogs are cute, but they are unnecessarily hot for most of our Summer climate. Other ways to show Fido some kindness include: Ice blocks in their water, home-baked doggy treats (lots available at markets), and use of cooling mats. Also a reminder to be safe with that roast or ham bone from your own Christmas feast, keep them close during New Year Fireworks, and of course, never leave them in the car!
  • Leave a positive review or thank you on Facebook.
  • Buy something from a WAHM/small retailer.
  • Carols by candlelight (these often provide the opportunity to support a charity or P&C).
  • Give a handmade decoration for a friend/ family, or buy one that supports a charity.
  • Have a Christmas disco, and invite some friends from school, neighbours or cousins to join in.
  • Send an unexpected card.
  • Invite Christmas ‘orphans’ for a celebration, those who have family far away can feel lonely around this time.
  • Wrap a gift with art.
  • Reuse or recycle a gift.
  • This is a new one for us: start a communal plate! When you are asked to bring a plate to a gathering, leave the plate with a poem printed on it, asking people to regift it the next time they take a plate of goodies to a gathering.
  • Build a snowman in the sand – one for us Aussies! Get everyone to join in!
  • Sing a holiday song in the check-out queue whilst shopping, or even as you wander around the shops. I do this already, it just feels more magical when it’s Christmassy songs!
  • Buy an extra treat for next few people in line at the coffee shop: Some shops have a special Christmas treat for an extra dollar with coffee purchase, you could pre-purchase 2, 5, 20 or them!
  • Leave candy canes for shop assistants, carparking metres, at work.
  • Bake or wrap some treats for the bus driver.
  • Hold a driveway stall of Christmas treats.
  • Fill a basket with tea, coffee and treats and deliver to your local emergency services depot or hospital for those working over the Christmas period.
  • Host a Christmas themed photo shoot and invite some other parents to have their children photographed as well.
  • Leave treats for Santa, the reindeer and elves on Christmas Eve.
  • While hanging your Christmas decorations, or putting up your Christmas tree, have a dig through your excess decorations and craft stuff. Got anything you don’t use anymore? Or are you going away for the season and won’t be using them at all? Consider donating or loaning it to a school or day care, youth centre, hospital, shelter or hospice accommodation to help brighten them. Or is it just me with way more deco’s than I need??? Nana AoRK donated her 30+year old Christmas tree to the Youth Centre I used to work at, and we have already raided our craft box and donated to the school and day-care for their end-of-year activities and projects.

If you are looking to donate to any organisation, it’s best to contact them in advance and find out if there is anything specific they need. While donating your unwanted belongings is great, many organisations can’t accept many items as they are short on storage, so please call ahead and make sure your things go to where it’s really needed!

Of course there are many hamper appeals and collection drives at Christmas time, and I leave that to you to support the organisations that align with your own personal values. However, do spare a thought for shelters for those leaving Domestic Violence situations, those who host Christmas lunches for people on the streets, and foster and emergency care organisations who often collect donations for children and youth in emergency housing.

What acts of kindness does your family deliver around the holidays? What kind traditions could we start? Share in the comments!

Reverse-Birthday Kindness

We have just wrapped up Birthday Season here at Kleinschmidt central, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on sharing kindness around birthdays. We are BIG on birthdays in our house. Like, REALLY BIG. My mum put such amazing effort into our birthdays as kids, her prize winning Ettamogah Pub constructed for my Grandfather still takes the cake (pun intended). So, the event planner – turn cake decorator – turn wanna-do-it-all-myself control freak in me has turned out some pretty cool themed birthday parties for the kids (and impressive cakes to match if I do say so myself). We do try hard not to go too big on the gifts, and have certainly tried toning it down from the first couple of Master Ks birthdays (first born, all that, sorry Miss K!).

But. This post isn’t about my spoilt little munchkins. Well, not quite. Here are some of the ways we use birthdays as an opportunity to SHOW kindness to OTHERS.

Pre-Party: In the month leading up to each birthday, we do a clean out. Clothes, games, shoes, books. Things that are still in good condition but no longer fit or suit our needs (and can’t be passed down, sorry again Little Miss!). These are then passed on to op-shops, emergency response situations (bush fire, flood collections), books are forwarded on to school libraries and reading programs in Fiji, etc.

Birthday Party Invitations: Yes, this one is tough, no matter which side you are on. Master K is especially social and considers every last class mate to be his friend. So in the past, invited the entire class (and have had 13 guests out of the whole class, so not as intense as I imagined) to avoid disappointing classmates. On the occasion I have limited the number of guests attending, we have been sure to hand out the invitations discreetly, again, avoiding hurt feelings. This is probably less necessary as the kids grow older, but for now, I think the kindness is in the not-knowing.

Gift bags: Some parents love ’em. Some parents hate ’em. Me? Well, I’m sure you can guess. We love GIVING them to our friends who have made the time to celebrate with us! We want to send them home with something good. We try to avoid cheap plastic toys that break and sugary preservative laden lollies*. IN the past we have given out gift-bags with homemade play-dough, homemade ribbon twirlers, bubble wands, books, grow-your-own herb cups. *In saying that, we are always grateful when we receive any thanks-you bags, because we appreciate the effort!

After the Party: For the first time last year, we splurged on those balloons in the party section of the department store. You know, the giant walking Marvel Superheroes?  Yep, we went there. And at the end of the day, Iron Man was still going strong. Actually, in true Superhero form, he held strong for a few days. I think it was about day 3 when I suggested we do something ‘super’ with him. I suggested to Master that perhaps, the children in the hospital might really like to see a Superhero balloon, and that it might help to cheer them up. Master thought on it a few minutes, and decided that that would be a great plan. I spoke with hospital staff the next day to share my idea, and confirm that they were safe and welcome on the Children’s Ward. Master then helped me deliver them to the hospital the following day. Well, he bounced down that hallway, bouncier than that imposing inflatable. He had a grin from ear to ear and announced joyfully

“I’m so proud of doing this!”

Well, that was all I needed, but then the looks on the nurses faces as we arrived with this epic balloon bouquet assured us that the faces of the kids would be priceless. It seems like such a small thing, right? Donating USED party decorations! I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to have a child in hospital, and hope I never have to find that out. What I would rather try to imagine, is how I would feel seeing my child’s face light up from a hospital bed, seeing that balloon bounce in through the door!

donate-balloons

So what other acts of kindness could we do around birthdays? Or what act of kindness have you received when it was someone else’s birthday?

Teacher Staff-Room Stash

So here’s a quick and easy act of kindness that the Kleinschmidts love to deliver on.

As I understand it, it’s customary for students to give their teacher a gift at the end of the year. We’re all for that, don’t get me wrong, but I can see on my son’s teachers faces that teaching can be exhausting! I admire these two beautifully patient women that teach my sons class, and figure if there is anything I can do to help and thank them for what they do, I am more than willing.

So what exactly did we do?

teacher-staff-room-stashJust a small bag with some coffee sachets, nice chocolate and chocolate-coated coffee beans in a little pot. Then, just for fun, we added a mixed selection of fresh pastries for the weekend as one teacher was moving house. I wrote a card expressing our gratitude and snuck into their office and left it on their desks (with permission from another teacher who shared the staff room).

 

And that’s it! Simple right?? A small anonymous ‘keep it up’ for the teachers who inspire and teach our beautiful munchkins. To this same end, here are a few other ideas on ways we can support our children’s teachers:

  • Volunteer in the classroom. Speak to your child’s teacher and let them know what skills you have and ask how they can be used in the classroom. It might be music, sporting, crafting, or reading to the class.
  • Volunteer for school events. Not everyone can regularly participate in the day-to-day activities in the classroom, however schools have many events throughout the year where they need helpers. Sports carnivals, Under 8’s celebrations, school discos, movie nights, concerts, Book Week, or contribute something to bake sales held on election days.
  • Become a member of the Parents & Citizens Association. 
  • Volunteer in the canteen or uniform shop. It is usually only a couple of hours a week.
  • Donate goods to the classrooms. Teachers work exceptionally hard to arrange activities and apply different learning methods that suit our childrens’ learning styles. This often means they are paying for extra resources out of their own pockets, or suppling things from home (bless our teacher who bought gluten-free bread especially for my son for an activity this year). So check in with the teacher, they might need boxes, craft supplies, play dough, dress-ups, beads or any other manner of craft or stationary supplies.

Oh! About the anonymous note: I was once asked why I didn’t sign my name on a bunch of flowers delivered in a time of sadness. I was part of a group who sent the gift in the name of kindness. My response to this beautiful friend (who of course figured it out anyway) was simple. You didn’t need to know it was us. What you needed in that time, was to know that you were loved, and that you had people around you who saw what was going on and were there for you. The exact same goes for teachers. We know they are working more hours than they are paid for, they buy so many of the supplies used in the classroom and they just need to know that we see that and appreciate it.

So big love, caffeine and hats off to teachers!