Monday, November 28, 2011

Jack rabbit softie for Mirabel

I had decided that I was too busy to participate in this round of Softies for Mirabel (see box at right), but then I got a pang of guilt the other day... surely I could spare a bit of time to make a toy for such a great cause.

So I got out my Jack Rabbit pattern from Hop Skip Jump and made this little fella. Again, the pattern came together really well and easily. The new Hop Skip Jump toy book looks devine, by the way. When the kids saw me making the bunny we had a chat about children who may not get much at Christmas and how it's good to do things for other people when we can. That stopped the usual "I want to keep it mama"s :-).

- - - - -

In other goings-on, can I just say that I am so glad that I will not be having another 2 year old in future... yes children are a blessing and all that, but geez, the tantrum tally for today must be going past a dozen. Count to ten, mother, deep breath....

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My creative space

In my creative space this week I've been busy designing, screen printing and sewing some tea towels and other kitchen goods (and generally indulging in my new obsession with screenprinting :-)

The design is based around the beetroot design that's been in my head for ages and I finally developed for the recent fabric swap.

Earlier in the year I started selling some of my hand printed and sewn things (including my artichoke tea towels) at the lovely Sweets Workshop, which is a fantastic little gallery & retail space selling handmade objects from local and international artists and designers. Emma and John are just the most welcoming and friendly people and I admire the way they support designers and artists and provide a place to showcase emerging designers' work, while also making art and design accessible to everyone. You can check out their website here if you'd like to know more.

So this lot, plus some more things, are on their way there too and will hopefully be well received with their Christmassy colours ;-)

More creative goodness to check out over here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Broad beans 101 and a recipe

One of our favourite family pasta recipes originally came from my Italian sisters-in-law and includes broad beans. I normally make it with frozen ones as the season is short, but when we visited my mum recently she was growing a little forest of them! So I jumped at the chance to make this favourite with some fresh tender beans for a change.

And in case you're not familiar with them I thought I'd show you a little about this lovely bean...

Broad beans growing and being harvested (enthusiastically!).

Freshly picked beans

The beans podded. The outer shells (on the left) are discarded (great for your worm farm or compost bin) and you end up with a pile of single podded beans.

If your beans are a bit old or a bit large it's good to double pod them as they may be a bit chewy - the most tender part is right inside (see pic below). The easiest way to double pod them is to heat the single podded beans briefly by boiling, steaming or microwaving them for a couple of minutes, then when cool pinching/slitting the pod open and slipping the bright green inner pod out.

Keep in mind that if you buy broad beans frozen they come single podded and need to be podded (making them double podded - phew... still with me? :-).

Left: unpodded Centre: single podded Right: double podded

Spaghetti with tomato broad bean sauce & garlic croutons
serves around 6

Tomato sauce (this is my version, you can use another basic recipe or buy a ready made sauce to speed it up)
1 small brown onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 x 400g tins diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 tsp sugar
salt & pepper to taste

Garlic croutons
Olive oil
cubed bread, about 3 cups (we like either Italian or Turkish bread but any crusty loaf will do)

Cook the tomato sauce first: Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Fry onion and garlic until onion starts to go translucent. Add tinned tomatoes, water, sugar, salt and pepper, stir then simmer for at least half an hour. The flavour will keep developing the longer it's cooked - add a little water if it starts to get too dry.

Pod the broad beans and add to the tomato sauce, heating for another 10 minutes or so. They don't need much cooking.

Next cook the croutons: heat a few splashes of olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add the cubed bread and garlic and fry, stirring constantly so all the sides get a little browned and crisp. Sprinkle with a little salt if you wish. I like salt flakes.

Cook pasta according to instructions on the pack. Place a pile on each plate, add a spoonful of tomato broad bean sauce and then sprinkle some croutons on top. Finish with parmesan cheese.

• Tomato sauce can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. It also freezes well, so you can always double the recipe and freeze half for another time.

Can we eat it yet Mum? Stop taking photos and let us eat!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rare find

I begrudgingly popped in to Spotlight recently to look for some plain linen for making teatowels & pot holders to screenprint (linens at my favourite stores being too expensive/too thin/too just not right). The linen was still not quite what I wanted (why is it so hard to find?!), but looking around the dress fabrics, I suddenly felt like I'd stepped into an aladin's cave of great fabrics rather than a boring chain store.

Was it that I hadn't been fabric shopping for a while, or that I was on a caffeine high from the strong coffee I'd just had? Was I in the wrong store?? When I go to this chain store (the equivalent in the US seems to be Joann's?) it's normally just for some basics, some thread, a bit of stuffing for soft toys, that sort of thing. But I seriously could have bought home about 7 different great prints this visit. But I told myself I could just choose one * and narrowed it down to this beauty...

The docket says it's 'Japanese tana lawn, hydrangea'. And the colours - pale grey background with splashes of vivid purple, deep blue and yellow - perfect! The sales assistants (or 'ladybugs' as my boy calls them ;-) couldn't tell me the difference between lawn and voile - does anyone know?

Anyway, I adore it, even though I had a moment of "is it nanna or gorgeous?", not that it can't be both! I put that down to the hydrangea print. My paternal grandmother grew beautiful blue ones near her door.

I plan to make a version of my boring dress for those hideous days like last Monday when the temperature reaches the high 30's c and it feels like we're living in a furnace. Fingers crossed that the image in my mind comes out the same way.

* Lets just forget all about this post, shall we (ahem)? Ah well, 3 steps forward, 2 steps back ;-)

Monday, November 14, 2011

The first idea - hard to beet

It's Print Swap deadline today and true to form I've wrapped and posted the parcels on the final day (operating under "the cornered rat syndrome", as my uni lecturer used to call it!).

This was not for want of trying or thinking about it for the past few weeks. With another project in mind (tell you another time ;-) and still stuck on a food theme after my artichokes, I knew I really wanted to do a new beetroot design. But that little voice in my head kept nagging me: "maybe I should do something different... what if my partners don't like cooking/gardening/beetroot... should I do something more girly, even though it's not really 'me'?... maybe I should do something kiddy (all my partners have kids)... or maybe not... I could do something Christmassy..." and so on and so on, until I told the voice to shut up and got on with it!

I did play around with a few other ideas, which may turn into something in future, but in the past I've found that my half-baked ideas often lead to frustration... so for now if was back to the beets.

And now that I've practiced screen printing I am keen to keep going. Next on the agenda is coffee. Food obsessed, me? ;-)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Photo

top making and enjoying celery salt using leaves normally thrown away thrilled to be receiving fabric from partners in the handprinted fabric swap • studying, roasting and eating this beauty

nervously but excitedly printing for the swap the lovely scent of spring in the breeze

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Black Spinel trousers

Hankering after a new pair of skinny cargo-ish pants this winter, I jumped in and bought this pattern from Japanese company Tamanegi-kobo after seeing them here and here.

I finally got around to sewing them recently. They came together well using a cheapy bit of synthetic fabric ('sharkskin'?).

This pattern is available with English instructions and the only problem I (almost) came up against was my hip measurements going off the chart of the much slimmer built Japanese woman. I used the biggest size and I'm normally an Australian size 10.

I'm really happy with my new trousers and would definitely make another pair: love their 3D knees, top stitching detail, comfy design and styling - just enough attitude without looking ridiculous on a 40 year old mum (depending on your opinion!).

The only problem is... summer seems to have hit us early here, so they'll have to languish in the cupboard til they meet my boots and jackets next autumn/winter. I'll be looking forward to them ;-).

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chocolate pomegranate gift biscuits

My big girl has 2 teachers this year and they're both great. So I didn't want to miss the opportunity to show a little appreciation when I found out that one of them was celebrating their birthday. I wanted to cook something... considered making a jar a homemade harissa, but suddenly had a vague memory of him saying once that he loved chocolate. Perfect! I can do something chocolatey...

While searching for inspiration I saw this blog post about Chocolate Pomegranate Biscuits. I put this on the mental shortlist, along with chocolate biscotti and truffles.

When, just a few hours later, totally unprompted, the Mr bought home not one but three pomegranates, I knew I had to try it!

Instead of using Dana's recipe though, or the original one, I used this egg-free recipe (out of habit/so my big girl could try them). The pomegranate seeds were added last along with the choc chips.

And I used this technique for de-seeding the pomegranates - it's effective and fun!

Of course making a pretty parcel is half the fun of giving home baked gifts. I stamped my kitchen stamp onto a piece of metallic card and wrote our message.

Hopefully the teacher will like them, it's always hard to guess other people's tastes. But for me, crunchy biscuit, gooey chocolate and little bursts of fresh pomegranate juice are a pretty good combo ;-)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Little felt purses for the fete

Amongst all of the sewing I've been doing for the school fete tomorrow (tote bags, zip purses, tissue holders), these little felt purses for girls have been my favourite to make.

They're a simple little design, totally ripped off from this great tutorial I found via Pinterest.

To each one I've added little flower embellishments with more felt, buttons, embroidery and a few little beads here and there.

Wool felt is so lovely to work with, it irons well, is easy to stitch and the thicker weight is quite sturdy.

I can't make up my mind if the purses are sweet or a bit twee and naff. But no matter, judging by my girls' reactions they will hopefully sell: "pleeease can you make me one mum, pleeease!"

And hopefully the pile below will sell too... wish me luck ;-)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Simple pleasures

Hi! We're back from our time away and I'm feeling ready for the run up to Christmas and all that that entails (deep breath).

While we were away we saw lots of whales swimming in the sea, which was definitely a highlight, and all from my mum's back windows! The kids were constantly squealing "whale!! whale!!" and it was amazing to just look for a few seconds at almost any time and see a whale or two or three playing. Unfortunately I don't have any photos (no zoom lense), but here are a few of my favourite other shots:

Nature as inspiration for the printed fabric swap:

Though the weather was a bit rainy, there was plenty of gazing into rockpools and trawling beaches for shells and treasures...

And as usual there was plenty of time spent in my mum's garden...

Plus there were some sooky-la-la moments of course (hopefully she won't hate me later for posting this, I like the shot ;-)...

and plenty of posing. Gotta love a boy who happily wears mama's creations!

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