Friday, October 29, 2010

this moment

I'm joining Soulemama (and many others) this week with the Friday ritual of 'this moment' - a moment from the week to pause, savour and remember. Happy weekend to you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

DIY t-shirts

OK, this t-shirt doesn't look like an exciting thing to sew but it kind of is to me...

I've been thinking about how elusive the right t-shirt is to find. You know the one - clings in the right places, good fabric, right sleeve length, right colour, good neckline etc etc. Even though t-shirts are a wardrobe basic, especially for me being a stay at home mum, it's still hard to get a really good cut and style, something that's flattering and easy to wear.

It hit me recently that rather than trudging around the shops (which I hate these days, particularly with littlies in tow!) looking for the right cut, it might be possible to make it myself once I have a good basic fit. So I decided that I would take one of my 2 or 3 t-shirts that do fit well and draft a pattern from it. The intention is to tinker with it until I have a really good basic shape that I can then adapt into all sorts of variations.

With that in mind I raided my stash for a stretchy knit, choosing this fine black and white striped jersey that I got on sale for $2.50 a metre. Bargain! And even though I always hate to waste fabric (you should see my 'scraps' box!), at least it wouldn't be costly this way.

Then I chose my beloved but ageing old white Kookai boat-necked 3/4 sleeve t-shirt to draft the pattern from, lengthening the sleeves. This is the result, no hemming or alterations done, just 4 pieces of fabric stitched together, an OK start. Some adjustments to make, and some techniques to learn, like how to do a neckline without it stretching, but at least the basic shape is there. So, a few tweaks to come, then to have some fun...

Simple shapes that seem to suit me (I think?): boat necks, cap sleeves, bell sleeves, curved hemlines.

I've been drooling over this top (and most of the other clothes!) by the very talented Etsy seller Gaia Conceptions for ages. I've always loved a keyhole detail and can't wait to use the fine black wool jersey in my stash for a top featuring ties & keyholes. Hmm, methinks this shouldn't be the first adaptation I try. And better be prepared for the possibility of lots of unpicking!

And one of these very cute kimono tops from a free pattern by a Burda Style member - apparently cut from just one pattern piece and having only two seams. I'm intrigued. Thinking of a fine cotton/nylon midnight blue recently purchased from this sale.

Do you have a favourite t-shirt? Is it just me, or are the right t-shirts hard to find?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BBQ favourites

We had a BBQ here on the weekend, just because the weather was looking very summery (though it rained in the afternoon) and the kids always love it. I guess any break from the usual routine is a bit exciting when you're little!

So I thought I'd show you a couple of my favourite, fail-safe dishes. What does a vegetarian eat at a BBQ? I've tried lentil burgers, vegie sausages etc, but the thing I really love, and that I have to fight the carnivores away from, are these halloumi skewers (sorry, pic is pre-cooked, I was too hungry and distracted to get the camera out once they were cooked :-) I admit I have been addicted to halloumi since it became available here in Australia. This unique salty, almost rubbery textured cheese from Cyprus holds it's shape when cooked, so can be fried, grilled or baked.

Just cut your block of halloumi into even sized chunks and thread onto bamboo skewers (pre-soaked so they don't burn). My favourite companions for the halloumi are squares of green capsicum (peppers), whole small mushrooms and chunks of red onion (sadly rationed in the above pic through lack of shopping planning). The flavours complement each other really well and are fresh and tasty, with that salty kick that I love from the halloumi.

The second dish, pesto rice salad, is a firm family favourite, one that all the family eat, even the small boy (now 14 months, can I still call him a baby?). It's one of those dishes where if there are any leftovers they gets gobbled up soon after. Very satisfying for a mum to cook for her brood! I know it doesn't look very exciting, but the rice/pesto/lemon/cheese combo is divine, trust me.

The recipe can be found here. It's by the popular British cook Delia Smith, and appears in the book Delia's Vegetarian Collection, amongst others of hers. I've always loved the way Delia writes because she goes into great detail and often explains why something in particular is needed or how it works. Which is helpful if you're like me and like to cut corners occasionally - then you know when you can cut them and when not to. Anyway... my point here is that I have used bottled pesto (instead of making it fresh for the recipe) and it still turned out great.

So if you have a vegetarian coming to your BBQ or just feel like something different, I'd urge you to try these recipes. Of course the Mr and littlies know to ask nicely before they tuck into my halloumi - they've already eaten their boring old sausages and chicken kebabs ;-)

Green salad with roasted beetroot, adding some earthiness and crunch

Monday, October 25, 2010

School fete craft bee

This morning another mum from school and I got together to have a craft session in order to make some things for the school fete in a couple of weeks. Of course there was lots of chatting too and discussion about arty businesses that really got me thinking about how and where I see my working future - a topic which is always on my mind!

It was lovely to chat while working and collaborating on creative projects. It reminded me of those high school and uni days where you work in the studio on projects with others in this creative atmosphere full of camaraderie. Ah, those were the days...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Also, the giveaway cuff has gone to Elizabeth. Yay Elizabeth! Could you please email me your details and I'll post it to you ( Thanks for playing everyone :-)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mother guilt grass heads

So, this is what a hefty dose of 'mother guilt' produced in our house this week.

At the end of last term the big girl proudly bought home a small bean seedling that she'd been growing in class. It had been tended and loved for weeks, and we'd had regular updates on it's progress. It even survived being pulled out of it's soil by one extremely competitive classmate - he pulled ALL of the classes out except for his own so they wouldn't grow. Lucky I'm not his teacher, I'd have gone in with the weedkiller for his (hee hee). Once it was home, the big girl kept reminding me that she needed to water it, and couldn't do it herself as it was on a high shelf (to avoid the littlies destroying it). "Yeah, yeah" I kept saying, but obviously left it too long as when we did water it and transplant it to the garden it died :-( I even tried to revive it with extra water, fertiliser etc, but to no avail - it was knackered.

In true gen X style I felt I needed to fix this for her, or as I couldn't do that with the thing being totally had it, compensate for it. I'd seen some kinda cute heads with grass growing out of them and thought it might kill three birds with one stone - satisfy the big girl's urge to "grow something", redeem my reputation and also give us a craft activity one afternoon. And they looked dead easy to do...

For once I was stumped as to what words to Google so just tried "children's grass head" - lo and behold that's what they're called - grass heads. So after a few minor (or not so minor) setbacks:

1. Sawdust, you fill it with sawdust? Who the hell has a bag of sawdust lying around? OK, something loose & organic that will allow water to draw up to the seeds easily. So I mixed a loose soil with some crunched up dried leaves and stuff.

2. Grass seeds. OK, none of those lying around either, off to the supermarket... what, I don't need a kilogram! And $15! Right, some spring onion seeds will do. We can mix them with the old carrot seeds at home.

3. Old stockings... hmm, haven't worn them for ages, I'll get a packet of knee-highs at the supermarket... Forgot all about it so have to use a weird browny pair, frugally cut into 4 (the big girl had a friend over for a playdate)

Anyway, it all worked out OK. The trusty hot glue gun came through and did the sticking of features and all was well. One girl satisfied... for now. And one mum just a teensy bit nervous about the *%#@&! things sprouting!! :-)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Da da di da

There was a lot of wedding talk at our house on the weekend. It was mine and the Mr's wedding anniversary on Saturday and by coincidence my big girl was looking in a box and found the very kitsch bride and groom plastic figurine that we had on our wedding cake. We got married in Thailand and had a buddhist blessing. Most of the ceremony was lovely but there were a few funny bits where the people who'd organised it were obviously trying to add some western touches, like the bouquet of dying roses (but the local flowers were stunning!) and a traditional cake with this figurine on top.

The big girl asked if we could make a cake for the anniversary and "put some flowers on top" so we had fun doing just that. We were going to make sugared violets with these sweet native violets from the garden until my Googling revealed that egg white is used. So that of course was out with her egg allergy.

I tried making a sugar syrup to get the sugar to stick, but it didn't work... so I ended up making some little sugar spirals. They turned out a bit like thicker fairy floss (candy floss) and were a big hit. So the cake was decorated with fresh flowers and more sugar!

In other wedding news my brother is getting married just before Christmas, which obviously provides an opportunity for some serious sewing! I've ordered this Japanese pattern book (which has apparently just come out in English for the first time) for some inspiration to make myself a dress. Can't wait to receive it!

Happy weekend everyone.

Bread of the week - potato focaccia

I've loved potato pizza since the Mr and I visited Rome way back in about 1996. Eating a big slice of it (which was sold by weight, as the pizza bars there do) along with some marinated artichokes, standing on the street, is one of my strongest memories of Rome. All that history and culture and it's the food I remember the most!

Whenever we make pizza at home I make a potato one, sprinkled with fresh rosemary and salt flakes. This is a heartier version of that, as it has a much thicker base and more potato on top than I'd put on the pizza (the pizza gets too weighed down with too much topping).

I didn't photograph the process, but it's pretty simple:

Start by taking out about a third of your container of dough*. Using heavily floured hands, shape it and pull into about a 30cm diametre round, placing on your baking paper. It should be around 1cm thick. Let it sit until it comes back to room temperature. This is really important as you want it to have as much air and lift as possible, otherwise it will be heavy and doughy and just not great!

Meanwhile, slice 2 large potatoes (I used washed ones and didn't peel them) as thinly as possible so you end up with large thin rounds. Then either steam or microwave until just tender.

When the dough is back to room temperature drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil. Then add a layer of potato, sprinkle on some fresh rosemary and sea salt flakes. Add more layers until you have used up all of the potato. Finish with the rosemary and sea salt and another drizzle of olive oil.

Put into the oven on the top shelf on a pizza stone if you have one (see my transfer method in this post). Bake at 220c for around 20/30 minutes. Have a look at the edges of the dough and when it is nicely brown you'll know it's done. Leave to cool a bit then cut into squares. I served this with baked stuffed capsicums (peppers), and I think it would be nice with any sort of braise or stew. Enjoy!

* basic recipe listed on this post

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My 100th post! (and a giveaway)

Hey, this is my 100th post! Which seems crazy really, as it feels like I'm just getting started with this blogging caper... wasn't it just last week that I wrote my first post? Yeh, yeh, I know, I'm getting old - everything feels like it was 'just yesterday' these days.

So I thought I'd have my first giveaway. Occasionally people ask me why I blog (dunno, really), and a school mum friend recently said she showed her parents my blog as an example of 'a blog' and they asked why I do it (dunno, really). So why have a giveaway? Dunno, really, just kinda want to... which I reckon is as good a reason as any :-)

I made the pictured wrist cuff recently during my cuff making frenzy when I also made one as a friend's birthday gift. I chose the other one to give to her and this one got put in the sewing basket for 'another day'. It needs a home. It's made with some of my favourite Cloth horsey fabric, linen and wool felt backing, and closes with a wooden button.

If you'd like it, leave me a comment and I'll get the baby to point to the screen and choose a name on the weekend. I'll post it anywhere in the world, so don't be shy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

90 minute shirt

Now that my self-imposed sewing ban is over - the pantry no longer looks like someone has thrown the food in, our clothes are all folded and neat(ish) in the wardrobes and the mountains of washing are under control, I can get back into sewing - yay!

And just in time - I have volunteered to make some crafty things to sell at the big girl's school fete, so will be busy with that soon - once I decide what to make.

Sneaking something in before then though, I've been dying to do the '90 minute shirt' tutorial from Made, so tried this on the weekend. Did you spot my new "Next on my sewing machine" button over there on the right? I'm hoping to keep it updated and to streamline all of that stuff on the right. I now know why bloggers end up with lots of categories and sub-categories - there's so much inspiring stuff out there on the net!

Anyway, the 90 minute shirt came together well and I got to use a few funky colours together. I generally avoid re-threading my overlocker (serger) whenever possible. Last time it to 40 precious kid-free minutes to get the next colour working right - arghh! So I left the red on, which I was happy with as a little detail.

Now to get all the other red-friendly projects finished before I have to change the *%#@ thread again!

Friday, October 15, 2010

this moment (with food!)

I thought today I'd do a kind of 'this moment' (a la Soulemama's Friday tradition) but with a food theme. So these are some of our favourite food moments from the week (couldn't just choose one :-)

* Also just thought I'd let you know that I have sorted out the RSS feed thingey for my blog so you can now follow me in a reader if you like

Have a lovely weekend!

A 'freckle' almost as big as your face - a toddler's dream come true

A jar of dried fruit balls kept in the fridge to be snacked on, based on Innerpickle's post here

Lovely artichokes in season. Later cooked in the pressure cooker and served with a lemon vinaigrette. Heaven.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shirring detail

I seem to have lost my ability to multi-task with the Mr away this week and have been choosing sleep over blogging and crafting in order to attempt to keep up with the littlies each day! But it's hard to ignore the sewing urge!

Today we had an unseasonably warm day and my little skirt and dress loving girl chose to wear this lovely dress from Australian brand Ouch. It reminded me of how much I enjoy doing a bit of shirring and how useful it can be.

The sewing I've been enjoying lately has made me curious about garment construction. A nice detail that I noticed on something recently was the use of a few small rows of shirring to pull in a section of fabric to give the garment a slightly more fitted look. I thought it might suit the top below that I made last summer with Make It Perfect's Shearwater tunic pattern (there's another that I made in this post). My aim was to give it a slightly more fitted look whilst keeping it easy and comfortable to wear.

So this is it before

and after with a little shirring added. Not great photos (set self-timer, run over and stand on a stool, try not to look wooden, etc etc) but you get the idea.

The first time I tried shirring I was amazed at how easy it was to do. I'm not sure if this is the best way, but this is how I do it:

Wind your bobbin by hand with shirring elastic (NOT hat elastic, which looks similar but is thicker), pulling the elastic slightly as you go so that it's taut but not fully stretched.

Load your bobbin, use ordinary thread for the top, then just sew normally using a very long straight stitch. As you sew the fabric will start to gather. If you want to do another row alongside, pull the fabric gently to stretch it out.

I tied the ends off by hand, which was a bit tedious. If you were shirring from one seam to another, rather than just a small section, you wouldn't need to tie any ends as they would be sewn in with the seams. A little bit on the sleeves might be nice too... I can tell this is going to turn into a 'tinkering' top!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rag rug riddle

Rainbow rag rug by Waschbear

There's not much creativity happening here this week with the Mr away for work, school starting again, my mum visiting AND the first week of my 'kid swap' happening (where my friend and I look after each other's littlie for one day a week each). BUT there's always some idea that I've squirreled away and am dying to get into...

Festival throw rug by craftzies

When I recently moved furniture around the house I realised we needed another rug or two. I've always found it difficult to find rugs that I like but are not hugely expensive. Then 'ping', an idea popped into my head that I haven't been able to get out - make the rug! Sometimes I curse this 'gotta make stuff' mania, but sometimes it's fun. Hopefully this will be one of those!

Multi-coloured round crochet rag rug by RaggedyAnns

After Googling and Youtubeing (?) 'rag rug making' though, I'm confused... do I weave, braid, crochet, or use the 'toothbrush' method?? If anyone reading has any thoughts, experience or whatever, please let me know. I'm thinking I can buy a heap of old t-shirts at my local thrift shop (the $6 per kilo place) and make this project environment and budget friendly too! I'll let you know how I go. In the meantime, here's some inspiration from some clever Etsy sellers. And this Flickr group is amazing too.

Friday, October 8, 2010

My favourite tofu recipe

Well, if you're reading this then I didn't lose you on the title of this post :-)

A friend recently asked me where I buy my tofu (the ordinary supermarket, sometimes Asian supermarket) and said she wanted to increase the protein content of her meals without solely relying on meat. She won my admiration by saying that her family of meateaters tried to eat small amounts of good quality meat rather than masses of the cheap (ie intensively farmed) stuff. I find the whole arguement going around at the moment about sustainability, health and animal welfare interesting because I've felt strongly about this for years. American author Jonathon Safran Foer seems to have stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest with his non-fiction book "Eating animals" and discussions with friends over his TV interview here on the ABC's Lateline have been interesting.

Right, well, I'm not meant to be changing the world here with this post, just telling you about my favourite tofu recipe - Sesame tofu :-)

Sesame Tofu

Rinse 500g firm tofu and pat dry with paper towel.
Cut into about 2cm cubes.
Place in a shallow dish along with:
2 crushed cloves of garlic,
2 tablespoons of fresh grated ginger,
1 tablespoon of brown sugar,
1/3 cup of soy sauce (I like Kikkoman brand)
Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours to marinate
(or marinate it in the morning and leave til dinner time to prepare).

Combine in a large mixing bowl:
1 cup of sesame seeds,
1 tablespoon cornflour,
2 tablespoons wholemeal plain flour
(or just plain if you don't have wholemeal)
Add the tofu cubes and toss to coat in the sesame mix.

Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil (or any flavourless oil) in a wok,
add the tofu in batches and fry until golden. Drain on paper towels.

I have this with vegetable fried rice, or plain rice and side dishes of steamed broccolini with soy, stir fried snow peas with mushrooms, or even just as a snack on it's own. When I make a bowl it's hard to keep my kids and the Mr (and myself ;-) from eating them all before the rest of the meal is cooked.

* Please cut me some slack with the photography - shooting tofu at night and with hungry children nagging me is not a winning combination for brilliant photography - well, that's my excuse!

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