The ‘bests’ of 2012…

Over here at ‘(In)courage – home for the hearts of women’, there is a growing list of BEST books, BEST recipes, BEST music, BEST everythings……  add yours and you can win Ann Voscamp’s book/devotional  “1000 Gifts” (or can purchase at Koorong Bookstore Online here).

Here’s my list …

  1. BEST song 2012…  “Blessings” by Laura Story
  2. BEST book 2012… “1000 Gifts” by Ann Voscamp… every friend who has had a birthday or needed encouragement (or for no reason at all!) has been given this book this year!  It’s been a blessing in my life these last few years to see and focus on and write down 3 gifts each day.
  3. BEST (easy) recipe 2012 … CADA that’s for sure.  CADA (made in the Thermomix – 2 seconds!) or (made in a blender) consists of a handful of Coconut (shredded), handful of Almonds, handful of Dates, and an Apple (cored) => blended for a couple of seconds to make a beautiful, sweet, grain-free, healthy breakfast!  Top with some yoghurt.. or kefir! or just eat it plain – YUM!
  4. BEST family experience….   my husband and I and our children all saw our calf being born one Saturday morning.  The photo below is just after it was born.  It was the first time any of us had seen a cow give birth – what a miracle!



  5. The BEST website 2012 … GNOWFGLINS – God’s natural, organic, whole Foods, grown locally, in season.  WHAT a name! and what amazing things Wardee does in her ‘homestead’.  AND when I started this blog in Nov 2012, I was featured in her Down Home Farm Tours (click the picture below to see!!).

6.  BEST project to support for 2012 – Support for Children with Autism in Tajikistan – My friend, Karen, who has just returned from Tajikistan, has set up this amazing project that raises awareness and supports children who experience Autism and their families. This project has to raise $5,000 from 40 donors by December 31, 11:59 PM EST to earn a permanent spot on GlobalGiving!!!  Please consider giving today – Donate here.

7.  BEST quote found on Pinterest –


8. BEST picture posted on Facebook –

9. “BEST things in life are free …. ”

10.  BEST new blog on the internet … !!!

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 What are your bests of 2012??







Christmas at Hills Homestead

We are having Christmas lunch in our home with extended family this year, and the children and I have been busy with decorating and baking and putting together homemade / homegrown gifts.

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Some of the gifts this year ….

  1. Home grown cherries – our tree was laden this year with rich red cherries!!
  2. Raspberry Couli and Raspberry Jams – this is our 2nd year having raspberry bushes and the kids loved picking them – (and eating 1/2 of them!).  ‘Child Picked’ raspberries are perfect for couli or jam as they are a bit squished!!  I picked some ‘non squished’ raspberries to put on top of our pavlova tomorrow.
  3. Free range eggs – we get about a dozen eggs a day, too many to sell and people love getting fresh eggs (or they say they do anyway!!)
  4. Homemade Vanilla Extract – I’ve now posted the recipe  – I started it about 6 months ago, and it’s now ready to put into little jars for gifts.  It’s too easy, and I wish I’d started making my own vanilla extract years ago!!  It’s basically just vodka and vanilla beans in a bottle.  You leave it in the pantry and give it a gentle shake every day for a while, then every week or so…. not too much effort, cost effective, and so much healthier and nicer that vanilla flavour/essence …
  5. Kefir grains – for people I know are interested in getting more probiotics into their diets, I’ve popped some kefir grains and printed out my ‘Kefir Daily Routine’ for their gift.
  6. Gingerbread – last night I did 3 batches of this gingerbread recipe in my thermomix, had it in the fridge overnight, and this morning it’s ready for the kids to make gingerbread angels, stars and hearts.
  7. We are also making these little packages to put as table settings tomorrow.

 Thank you Ann Voscamp at A Holy Experience for the envelope template.  The packages will be folded and tied with red ribbon, and the verse below will be inside.

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,

and they will call Him


which means “God with us”


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Hayley’s ‘Daily Kefir Routine’

There has been a lot of interest in the kefir grains, and some people have even accessed kefir from their local shop or have picked up some kefir grains from me!!

Now you know how good it is for you (see here for health benefits of kefir), here is how to ‘take care’ of the kefir grains … and they will last forever!!!

The daily routine takes less than 5 minutes (this includes walking to the fridge to get the milk and walking back, and getting out a jug or bowl for the kefir!)

My Daily Kefir Routine

This post is linked to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday blog carnival – I check this site out a lot for real food ideas!!




What’s that going off on your kitchen counter? Kefir !!

Have you ever heard of Kefir??  You may have seen it in health food stores, in supermarkets next to the milks and yoghurts, or you may have seen it ‘fermenting’ on someone’s kitchen bench!


I thought I should put together some of the research that I’ve done on kefir… for a few reasons….

  1. I give my kids a ‘kefir’ shake (milkshake) every day
  2. I have 2 jars sitting on my kitchen counter, full of kefir,
  3. Dealing with kefir is part of my daily routine,
  4. I drink it
  5. I give away the kefir grains knowing that they are an amazing source of ‘free’ probiotics, but I need to start giving an information sheet with my grains so people understand how to care for them and just how beneficial they are!

So, how do you say it??

It is pronounced “kef” as in deaf and “ear” as in fear.


I describe kefir  as a yoghurt-like drink.  It’s ‘stronger’ than yoghurt, hence why I usually make a smoothie with the kefir + banana + vanilla extract + honey for the kids.   I can’t drink it ‘straight’ yet, and my husband can’t face it at all!!!  It has HUGE health benefits because it has a very high level of live and active probiotic cultures that are good for your immune system and gut health.

The following information is from Dom’s Kefir Website … (Dom, that’s his name, is the Australian guru on all things kefir!)

  • Kefir is a cultured-milk beverage which originated in the northern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains (which are in Europe) believed to date back over 1,000 years.
  • The tribes-folk of this particular region consumed the nutritious beverage in large quantities, and they were known for living long, healthy lives with little to no known disease. An active life span of over one hundred years was common for folks living in the region where kefir was cultured and liberally consumed as part of a staple diet.
  • Traditional, authentic kefir can only be prepared by culturing fresh milk with Kefir grains.
  • Kefir can be strained and consumed fresh (ie at room temperature… or I strain it straight into my Amazing Thermo Machine! (my Thermomix) and make a fresh fruit smoothie with crushed ice to make it cold… the kids aren’t too keen on warm kefir milkshakes!!)  OR it can be ‘ripened’ at room temperature over a few days (this reduces the lactose in your kefir, improves flavour??, increases Vitamin B1, B6 including B9 or folic acid, .. also increases the alcohol content I’ve found!!!… I don’t usually ‘ripen’ it)

What do kefir grains look like?

Kefir grains look like soggy cauliflower florets.       Here is a picture of mine….

 Straining kefir grains through a colander

This is my kefir grains after I’ve strained the milk kefir off in the morning.   I’m about to pop them back in the jar and pour some of our raw milk over the top of them (you can definitely use pasteurised milk, I did before we bought our cow!) and leave on the kitchen bench for around 24hours.

Health Benefits of Kefir

Kefir is the ‘original’ probiotic! – long before people even knew what probiotics were.


  • are friendly or ‘good’ bacteria that help strengthen your body
  • the word ‘probiotic’ means “beneficial to life”
  • are SO good for you
  • (research shows evidence that they ….)
  • help boost immunity
  • promote better digestion
  • lower cholesterol levels
  • help to restore gut health after you take a course of antibiotics
  • …..  research on the above and more potential effects   (list found here)
    • 2.1  decreases diarrhea 2.2 decreases lactose intolerance 2.3 helps to prevent colon cancer 2.4 decreasing cholesterol 2.5 noromalising blood pressure 2.6 increases immune function and infections ……… 2.10 aids in prevention and treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and colitis 
  • Studies (see here)  have also shown that giving probiotics to children preventatively can reduce the incidence of respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea, reduces the number of sick days from daycare, helps to prevent allergies such as exzema and hayfever, and it may decrease the incidence of ear infections.

The Kefir Association  state on their website that kefir contains 10 probiotic strains and is an excellent source of protein, calcium and fiber (VERY nutritious for children and women!)

Your body contains about 100 trillion bacteria — more than 10 TIMES the number of cells you have in your entire body. Ideally, you should have 85 percent “good” bacteria in your gut, and 15 percent “bad” bacteria in your gut.     If you have an excess of unhealthy bacteria in your gut, it can manifest in many ways, such as gas and bloating, fatigue, sugar cravings, nausea, headaches, constipation or diarrhea. You may also find that, despite a healthy diet and exercise, you have difficulty shedding weight.   (See more detail on Dr Mercola’s website)

By adding things like yoghurt and kefir to your daily life,  it helps you to get the good bacteria in your digestive system.  Dr Mercola explains that this is important because an estimated 80 percent of your immune system is located there (in your digestive system!).   So supporting your digestive health is essential to also supporting your immune system, which is your number one defense system against ALL disease.

Things that interfere with your keeping your gut healthy –

  • eating a lot of processed foods (as they tend to destroy healthy bacteria and ‘feed’ the back bacteria and yeast)
  • taking antibiotics (of course, you sometimes HAVE to take antibiotics, so just ensure that you have adequate probiotics in your diet to replace the good bacteria that’s been wiped out!)
  • drinking chlorinated water
  • using antibacterial soap all the time
  • chemicals used in growing food and food production
  • pollution (need some of this fresh hills air!)

All of us are exposed to some or all of the above on occasions, so it’s a good idea to keep up the numbers of good bacteria in your gut by eating/drinking probiotics (e.g eating fermented foods/drinking kefir).

(Note: pasteurization kills the naturally occurring probiotics in milk, so pour your pasteurized milk over some kefir grains!!  OR even better, access some raw milk!)

In order to be considered probiotic, the bacteria must be present in sufficient numbers of live and active cultures, resistant to acid and bile, able to attach to the intestinal wall and colonize the intestinal tract and beneficial to health. Probiotics can be taken in tablet form, but most experts agree that it is better to get any nutrient through food consumption. Often the processing of tablets causes cultures to become inactive. With kefir, that’s not an issue since it’s ‘living’ on your bench, plus you’ll get the added benefits of calcium, Vitamins A, C and D, lactic acid and potassium.

Also, Kefir is so much CHEAPER than a tablet.  I’ve had a mum from school take home some of my kefir grains and now makes milkshakes/smoothies with the kefir each day for her children.  She previously had to purchase probiotics in tablet form for her children but can now ‘make her own’ probiotics.  The Microgenics Probiotic tablets cost $27.95 for 60 tablets – that’s nearly 50 cents EACH tablet – that all adds up if you have a few adults and a couple of children taking them every day!  Alive Probiotics (they are meant to have 25 billion friendly bacteria in each tablet!) cost $41.95 (on special) for 60 tablets – that’s 70 cents each tablet.  Yes, kefir on my bench, using milk that I have in my fridge anyway, is cheaper.

So why not try some kefir … look for some in the grocery store or health food shop (so you know I’m not making this up!), or see here (Dom’s Website) or here (source in Queensland) for Australian sources of kefir grains, OR if you know me, contact me and I’ll give you some grains (mine are thriving and I have SO many) so that you can easily make traditional kefir in your own home (and you never have to buy them again!).


For more information regarding Kefir – and sources of the grains – please visit Dom’s Website.  He’s the ‘King of Kefir’, from Australia, and has pages on the origin of kefir grains, benefits, and uses.

For more information on Raw Milk – see this series of blog posts from Kelly the Kitchen Kop on Raw Milk Benefits, Raw Milk Safety, and Farming Practices

Mmmm, I’m thinking of getting the kids to video the daily practice of making real kefir…. THEN you’d be impressed and request some grains from me immediately… or not….



On another topic… if you have a Thermomix, check out this site for amazing, SIMPLE, additive free lemon tarts… and I LOVE the French accent.

I’m an OT – Occupational Therapist – it’s a GREAT profession, I LOVE my job, but NOBODY knows what it is!!!    Thanks Danielle for the link, here is a 3 minute, easy to watch,  YouTube clip describing OT very well!!