Friday, April 29, 2011

Finished schoodie

Anyone lost a garden gnome?

Over the Easter break I finished the hooded scarf pattern that I won from the lovely Foxs Lane blog (thank you Kate!). It's one of a beautiful range of beginner knitting kits from Australian company Olive and me.

The pattern was very easy to follow and well written. Once I got the hang of it, it didn't take very long to finish and was really satisfying.

The finished product is very warm and cozy, and the hood can be worn down...

Or up, great for hiding ;-)

My only problem with knitting now is that I am head over heels in love with the pattern below, the "Effortless cardigan", which certainly would NOT be effortless for this novice!! So please, knitters out there, tell me how I go from my schoodie to that - what sort of project can I do as a step between? Or do I dive in and Google every step? Help!!

Have a lovely weekend friends.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A birthday sleepover part 2

Continuing on from yesterday's post...

After the sleepover bags were thoroughly raided the girls got started on their craft activity. It is a must to do craft before a sleepover, apparently (girls after my own heart :-). They decorated a pillowcase each using the fabulous fabric crayons pictured above. It was the quickest and least messy activity I could think of that related to bedtime.

After dinner was The Cake - do you find that the cake is often the most anticipated part of a birthday? I just love how excited children get about it. My girls talk about their cake all through the year, even when their birthdays are ages away!!

Big girl had excitedly gone through our favourite celebration cake cookbook, The Australian Womens Weekly's "Kids Party Cakes" in the weeks before the event and decided on this moon cake to suit the sleepover theme.

Each time I've used this cookbook I've picked up some new tip or trick, and this time it was the coloured textured icing. It's a standard butter icing coloured yellow, which is then sprinkled with sugar that you tint yellow. The sugar smooths off the surface and can be scattered around any dips in the icing, so it's very forgiving of wonky application! It looks great, but just don't think about the fact that you're eating pure sugar. Hmm, maybe that's why sleep came pretty late to the lovely girls :-) (The cake is this favourite quick and easy egg-free chocolate cake).

OK, one birthday down for the year, 2 more to go...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A birthday sleepover part 1

We had a very very exciting event here a few weekends ago, my big girl's 6th birthday sleepover. After a huge party last year where her whole class and other friends were invited the Mr and I were exhausted and there and then decided we'd skip the big party the following year. So we told her she could invite her 2 best buddies over for a sleepover, and of course I had to incorporate some craft, especially considering all 3 girls love to make things.

As soon as the girls arrived big girl delighted in giving them their 'sleepover bags'. Wanting there to be a few fun touches to the evening, I'd come up with the idea of making a simple drawstring bag for each of the 3 and including some things to do with bedtime. It was the element of surprise that I thought the girls would enjoy.

After a bit of thought, the items in the bags ended up being some bubble bath, a lip balm, a torch (for creating finger shapes on the wall & general fun), a treat to eat and a sleep mask, as well as a set of matching pyjamas that I'd been working on for a while:

These are made with the Oliver & S 'bedtime stories' pattern, which includes a kimono style top. I chose a bird print flanelette from Spotlight (very happy to find this amongst all the garish prints!) and for the trim a lilac coloured soft lawn. For the ties I used ribbon in the matching lilac. I love this pattern, it's so well considered and beautifully detailed.

Then for the sleep mask I thought it would be quicker to make them rather than trying to hunt some down (especially as they were just a gimick really and would only be used briefly, if at all). I made them out of some scrap fabric, elastic and pinking shears, and amazingly they turned out pretty well (and were very satisfying to make)!

Tomorrow I'll post the craft activity and cake...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter long weekend

Hi, how was your Easter weekend? Ours was spent having a bit of a break from technology (for me at least) and enjoying some family time (when we weren't having tantrums that is - hey, that's a 3 year-old's job, isn't it?!).

We did some of our favourite things:
Went for walks...

built sand castles...

spent ages throwing pebbles into the water...

looked for crabs and other creatures...

and made and ate hot cross buns... (I used the trusty no-knead method and added sugar, spices, sultanas and some choc chips - thank goodness for something edible after my recent pumpkin failure ;-)

Not to mention celebrating my mum's birthday (Happy Birthday mum!), hunting for Easter eggs then negotiating the eating (or not) of those eggs, lazing around in the new pyjamas and plenty of wrestling with uncles and cousins - the kids that is, not me ;-)

I hope you had time to relax and recharge the batteries! What did you get up to?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

When things don't work...

First pumpkin rage, now technology rage... think I need a holiday.

We're away from home and some minor adjustments I wanted to make on a pre-prepared post about my big girl's sleepover are not working (my familiar Mac is at home and the Mr's PC is p%&*#@^ me off!) so I'll say goodbye for now and try to enjoy my break away visiting family. See you next week!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pumpkin rage & cooking intuition


OK, this was meant to be a post on delicious pumpkin gnocchi for my 'pumpkin challenge', including recipe. The above picture is what pumpkin gnocchi should look like.

Unfortunately on Sunday night here we did not have this, and I'm afraid to say there was a tantrum - not from the 3 year old but from me. There was a time years ago when my kitchen tantrums were much more frequent - eggs breaking on attempted separation, butter that wouldn't rub into flour, over beaten cream, burnt whatever - you get the picture. But thankfully these days they don't happen so much. I don't care so much and who cares what it looks like if it stops the kids nagging me for food, right?

So, the other night there was lots of swearing about pumpkins and being time poor and cooking elaborate dishes for my food-loving Mr. as I realised that the gloopy mess in front of me was not going to amount to a passable (and certainly not delicious) dinner.

It was truely awful and it dawned on me that I hadn't listened to my cooking intuition.
It had been trying to tell me that:
• I don't really feel like cooking tonight so I stick to something simple
• It's 'movie night' and I'd like to sit down and watch Harry Potter with the kids rather than cook
• This is a really watery pumpkin and probably won't make a good gnocchi

I ignored all the signs that this was a disaster in the making and my lesson is to try to remember to listen to my cooking intuition to have a happy experience. And to give up on that damned pumpkin. It's beaten me. Right, mass quantities of soup it is...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cobbled together pyjamas

With the weather getting cooler here, last week I went through the kids' clothes, sorting them into what to put away, what to give away and what to throw away. This is always such a big process, and I end up with bags of clothes all over the place. Do you have the same? Any tips for managing the incoming/outgoing process? The Mr would say 'throw them all out, along with the toys!', but we all know this is not practical, as much as it would be nice to have a clutter-free house!

So while I was sorting I realised that the girls are pretty low in warm pyjamas. And as we are about to go off to visit family in colder climes I thought I'd better address this.

I got out of the stash all the flanelette (yay, stash busting!) and also a pile of long sleeved t-shirts that haven't been worn much because they've seen better days - a little stained, or stretched or pilled - and thought they'd be fine as pyjama tops.

The flanelette fabrics are of complimentary colours, including a lovely soft minty green, so I decided to mix and match a bit and make some new sets up. For the pants I used the Oliver & S 'bedtime stories' pattern (another post on this later), and traced off a couple of different sizes. Then I filed them into paper bags in an effort to keep some sort of order.

And on some of the tops I added some rough applique by cutting out shapes and machine sewing them on, particularly over any stains. I used contrasting strips for the pants hems and couldn't resist also using some ribbon. I got a heap of this lovely satiny lilac colour for just 10c a metre at Spotlight recently, yay!

I've still got a few pair to finish but we're set for our chilly trip.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pumpkin challenge update

3. Pumpkin scones
Definitely not popular here, we couldn't get through a batch of these and they ended up as worm food :-( Are they meant to be sweet or savoury? Do you have them with jam or cheese? Don't know, maybe just not to our tastes.

4. Roast pumpkin, macadamia & fetta pasta.
This one's a favourite of mine that I copied from a restaurant years ago. It also includes sweet chilli sauce, fresh basil and roasted garlic - sounds strange but a delicious combination and interesting mix of textures. I forgot to photograph it, but if you're interested let me know and I'll take a pic and write up the recipe next time I cook it.

Next up:
Hopefully pumpkin gnocchi this weekend

Have a lovely weekend, friends.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Coming over all sentimental

This grand old Japanese lady departed our family this evening, making way for a suave middle aged German gentleman. She's lost some of the lustre she arrived with 12 years ago, but has served us well with loyal service and hardly a complaint, being passed from me to the Mr at a point in our lives when we needed to plaster the back seat of a car in wall-to-wall baby seats and she couldn't quite cope (who'd blame her?!). She even dealt with a run-in with a bus with grace, and took a skirmish with a Woolworths delivery truck in her stride.

I felt extremely sentimental watching her drive away, I think because of what she represents to me: a time in my life when I was independent, I earned and spent my own money, I serviced a loan by myself, I was just me. A relatively carefree time. Before I had a mortgage, a marriage and 3 children. Before we lost my father, and my father-in-law too.

She's seen me through more than a quarter of my life, with its ups and downs. Goodbye old friend, I'll miss you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Birthday girl dress - Simplicity 2909

My big girl turned 6 last week and I made this dress for her as a present from Simplicity 2909.

I am always amazed at how different patterns can look in different fabrics. For instance, I wouldn't look twice at the pattern cover, pictured below, put off by the fabric and colour scheme:

But seen in this post in a review of the pattern on the Tessuti blog looks lovely.

And different again in the denim, which I'd used in an attempt to downplay the girlyness, seeing as she seems to be going away from girly and on to tomboy. I am pleased with how it sits, as I thought the denim may be too stiff to work. And it looks good with a long sleeved t-shirt and tights underneath. So I would recommend it if you're after a cute dress.

Shame about the posing but hey, whatever goes on your birthday! (more birthday sewing pics to come)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekend cooking - the pumpkin challenge

This rather majestic looking pumpkin appeared on our front doorstep recently, and turned out to be a home grown present from friends. I hesitated to cut it open until I could think of enough different ways to use it so that none of it goes to waste (impossible to tell from the pic, but it was about 40cm high). Part of the challenge, of course, will be to vary the recipes enough so that the family are not put off pumpkin forever by the time it's all eaten!

I thought it might be fun (in a cooking-nerd kinda way!) to see how many different ways we can use it and to show you what we come up with.

1. OK, first up, after hacking into it I enlisted my big girl to take out all the lovely seeds and we roasted them with a little soy sauce and olive oil (see this post). This is a really popular snack in our house and a bowl full of these doesn't last long. I only wish pumpkins yielded more seeds!

2. Also tonight I made a roasted pumpkin soup, based on this recipe.

And can I call on you to help by letting me know of any favourite pumpkin recipes you'd recommend? Something I've always been curious about is pumpkin pie. I've never even eaten it, let alone cooked it, but I'm intrigued, so if you have a reliable recipe, please let me know and I'll make it and report back.

Hope you've had a lovely weekend.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Stitches of a different kind

I've been a bit unwell this week and so decided to get out the hooded scarf knitting kit I won recently and finally start! This is my progress so far. I think I'm about halfway through the hood section, and I'm really enjoying it so far.

The boy is also enjoying it - a little too much actually, we've had a few tantrums where he's held it then wanted to pull all of my hard work apart! Do your kids want to play with your knitting? I do have an extremely inquisitive 18 month old, but then, maybe he'll enjoy knitting when he's older. Anyway, so far it is relaxing and satisfying and all the things I'd hoped it would be.

The other type of 'stitch' that this post's title refers to is of a kind I don't want to have again soon. I've recently been guilty of doing that mother putting the kids first and not attending to herself syndrome. A strange thing on my face that started changing (I meant to ask the doctor about it one day) ended up being one of these little beasties. I had it cut out this week, and all's fine, but maybe if I'd put myself at the top of the list I'd have spared myself some pain and a small chunk having to be taken out of my face. It's a bit of a wake up call not to get too wrapped up in daily life and look at the bigger picture. Sometimes being a stay at home mum feels like I'm living in a bit of a fog, but I've got to remember to put my head up out of the clouds from time to time. Know what I mean?

When I developed a head cold the next day, the Mr insisted on taking the day off work to look after the littlies so I could rest. A morning in bed felt luxurious when there was all the usual stuff to attend to, but felt like the right thing to do. I think, as most mothers do, I put pressure on myself to be superwoman, but sometimes it all comes apart and I'm reminded to just take it a bit easier, let myself off the hook a little and take care of myself.

Have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More on Simplicity 3835

When I recently posted here on my new tops made with the "Made by Wendy" Simplicity 3835 pattern, Fi commented that she wondered what they looked like on (I'd photographed them on coat hangers). It got me thinking about how I enjoy searching the web for pics of real people in patterns I'm considering. I'd almost never choose a pattern based on the sleeve pic - they're never very inspiring. But I really enjoy seeing how others have interpreted the pattern, what fabric they've used and how it looks on. So this is my effort to reciprocate! To any non-sewers out there, I apologise for the tedium :-)

This first one is my favourite, though it's very plain. With all 3 I have made them as fitted as I could given that there's no zip - they pull over the head. I don't think it's meant to be a floaty, roomy design, and that's not the way I've made them as I feel they're more flattering on me this way. I could do with a bit of help in the curve department these days. The fabric seems to work here - not too light or heavy, nice drape. Pictured with my favourite skirt at the moment, these two get worn far too often these days, I'm sure people must think I don't own much else!

Next up is my japanesey Alexander Henry print. As my dress doesn't get out of the wardrobe often it's nice to use the off-cut for everyday wear. You can see here that I've added the back darts in, even though (I think) the pattern doesn't say to - they're meant to be for the dress. I found it added a bit more shape.

And lastly, the voile version, which is not my favourite but looks OK layered for cooler weather if I'm feeling like a burst of colour.

I took these pics over the last week as I wore the tops (not on the same day), so you can see that they're definitely getting lots of wear. This top with either jeans or an A-line skirt is a bit of a uniform for me lately. If I find that I like the dress too, this pattern will be well worth the money... but I think it is already anyway.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Simple family vegetarian meal - green pasta

Gratuitous pretty broccoli pic :-)

Another popular simple vegetarian meal here is a tasty green pasta, full of yummy healthy goodies. You can add a handful of nuts for texture and crunch (and protein), or leave it out. I sometimes serve this dish with a bean salad to up the nutrient content of the meal, and of course crusty bread makes a welcome addition.

For the kids I usually take some of the vegetable mixture and blend it with a stick mixer before stirring in the pasta. Less asthetically pleasing but makes the kids happy without being obviously heavily laden with broccoli: "I love the green pasta mum!"

Zucchini, broccoli and green olive pasta

400g spaghetti (or other pasta)
1 medium head of broccoli
3 tblsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
4 medium zucchini
1 cup green olives, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup of toasted almonds, skin on or off
Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh parsley, to serve

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Salt the water to your taste (I add about a tablespoon), then add spaghetti. Cook until about 2 minutes before suggested cooking time is up, and at this point add the broccoli so that it cooks in the pasta water. Finish cooking then drain and set aside (reserve a little of the cooking water to use later).

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan to medium heat, then add olive oil and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Turn heat down to low, add grated zucchini and cook until it is starting to soften.

Add green olives and almonds if using, then pasta. Toss it all together thoroughly. Add a little of the reserved cooking water if the mix needs loosening a little.

Serve with grated parmesan and sprinkle with some fresh parmesan.

Serves 4-6

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