Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Roasted carrot dip

I often fall into the habit of serving something sweet for the kids' afternoon tea. Sure they love scones, slices, biscuits, pikelets etc but they seem to get enough sugar in their days, and I find our sugar consumption creeps up on us without me realising it.

When I bought some lovely sourdough recently I thought I'd serve it for afternoon tea along with some things to put on top. We had some humous, cheese and olives in the fridge, and I decided to make a carrot dip to go with it. I've made several times before but always served to adults along with a beetroot dip and olives. The original recipe is here at Gourmet Traveller and suggests making labne to have with it and serving it with pitta toasts. It's pretty simple to make, particularly if you have some kind of food processor to wizz it up in. The roasting of the carrots and garlic are what really gives this its wonderful flavour and elevates it to something a bit special.

Roasted carrot dip

4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
5 cloves garlic, separated from bulb but skins intact
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup natural yoghurt
1 lemon, juiced and zested

Preheat oven to 200c. Place carrots and garlic in a baking dish, along with a good glug of olive oil. Cook until tender. When cooled enough to handle, squeeze garlic from skins and discard skins. Place everything from the roasting pan (including oil) plus the remaining ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Alternatively, mash the carrot and garlic with a fork then mix in the other ingredients. Keeps covered in the fridge for 2/3 days.


They liked it all partly because it was a change, I think (but I'm sure there'd be a mutiny if the sweets were off the list permanently ;-) 
PS - arghh, this formatting malarkey is driving me nuts!! 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Recent failures

After my Minoru post where many lovely people said how clever they thought I was (thank you - you're good for my ego ;-), I thought I'd post some recent failures, just to show you that while I have some successes with my creativeness, there sure are plenty of less than perfect things happening here on a regular basis.

Take these biscuits for example. Or don't. They were awful. I'd had some ripe bananas laying around and thought "I'll just chop them up and throw them into this tried and trusted recipe, and add some flour to stabilise it. They'll be beautiful for the kids' afternoon tea and a snack for me and my friend". Hmm, they turned out bland, dry and tasteless. The kids ate them of course - anything sweet and cake-like they'll eat, but they were so awful that I refused to let my friend try them...

And this sewing effort. I'd had a cute tutorial pinned for ages and finally got around to trying it. When I started I confidently thought "I'll make lots of these for the school fete, some for friends, for the kids. It'll be my go-to handmade gift of choice". Until I realised the need to sew a perfect circle was crucial to the outcome and ended up not enjoying the process at all - and it looked terrible at the end, all wonky and uneven with awful seams showing. Oh well. Scrap that idea!

Can't win 'em all I guess! Got to take the good with the bad... And all those other cliches ;-)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Shibori workshop

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend a fabulous workshop Dye-linquent Shibori workshop: dyeing and up-cycling garments along with Lamina, my fabulous fellow craft nut ;-) It was held at the Powerhouse Museum here in Sydney as part of their 'Craftpunk' series.

The workshop was held by the lovely women from Shibori, Karen and Pepa. Lamina and I were green with envy hearing about their backgrounds in textiles and their experience studying shibori in Japan. Ah, if only I was 20 again and could study anything I liked, textiles would surely be it...

We were shown how to make an indigo dye vat (amazing!) and then how to fold or tie fabric to make patterns "shibori". As the workshop was only 2 hours long we didn't get much time to try the dyeing, and the venue, not being a wet, ventilated space, was obviously not ideal, but the experience of learning about it and watching and talking to Karen and Pepa was very enjoyable.


I came away with a couple of pieces and an interest in both indigo dyeing and shibori, and am enjoying looking at all the detail and little features that the indigo dye brings out. Though the last thing I need at the moment is another craft hobby, particularly one that involves a large vat of incredibly smelly sludgy dye, just waiting to be nocked over by a small person ;-) Still, it was a great experience and I'm filing it away in that folder in my brain labelled "crafts to try one day" ;-)

I could become a workshop junkie at this rate and will certainly be on the lookout for future workshops.

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In unrelated goings on, my 4 year old daughter made this little scene today of her barbie giving birth. She didn't get why I laughed... if only it was as easy as Barbie makes it look! I sure didn't have that serene smile on my face!

Happy weekend everyone.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bitten by the bread making bug again

I had a lovely morning with my littlies today. After their sister was taken to school, and on our way to the playground, we ventured out to the Bourke Street Bakery in the name of research :-) We tried the lentil pastry, chocolate croissant and rhubarb danish and they were all delicious. And with afternoon tea and dinner in mind we brought home a soy and linseed loaf and a plain sourdough loaf

I've written about my love of breadmaking in the past, but each summer I go off it for a while, not being able to stand heating up our already steamy kitchen with the high temperatures required to bake bread.

But lately I've enjoyed a couple of handmade sourdoughs, and then yesterday a friend dropped by with a new starter for me (after I killed the last one with neglect - oops!).

It made me go straight to the present I was given by friends for my 40th birthday last year - this cookbook by the Bourke Street Bakery. It's a beautifully designed and photographed book, but I must admit to having been a bit intimidated by it in the past. It's very professional and extremely thorough in the explanations of bread making, but with kids screaming at my ankles around dinner time it's more than I felt I could cope with!

Now that I have my starter though I'm keen to tackle one of the breads, maybe the potato and rosemary which looks divine.

Another thing I would love to get the courage up to try are the chocolate croissants... partly because it looks like a good challenge, but of course partly because I'd like to eat them. Lots of them ;-)

Friday, March 16, 2012

It was just a matter of time...

... until I gave in and bought the Tova pattern from Wiksten.

Since my fellow craft-addict and I saw the blog post on Sunday night (over red wine and chocolate) announcing that Wiksten patterns were now available as pdf downloads I knew I wouldn't be able to resist. I've always loved the pattern, but at the printed version's price (which I'm sure is fair) plus postage to Australia on top it was not going to happen :-( But $10 for the pdf, now that's "practically free!" as a friend used to say. And I'm going to be using stash fabric - for the first one at least! So that counts for something, right?!

Check out this hopeless chatter that's been going on in my head for the last 5 days:

You have enough patterns! Yeah, but most of them are for kids.

OK, but what about the Schoolhouse Tunic? And the Shearwater Kaftan? Both tunic styles, front opening, adaptable to dress length, blah blah. Yeah, but this is different, it's special.

Isn't that just because it's popular at the moment? They're turning up all over the craft & sewing blogs. Well, there is that, but I've always loved that style, with the yoke and stuff.

Well, you could adapt an old pattern or make one yourself you know, you've got that Cal Patch book just waiting to be used again. Yeah, but this is already designed, Wiksten have sorted out all the issues and created a lovely pattern. And I may never get around to doing it myself.

You shouldn't really be spending more money on sewing you know. Oh shut up, I'm going to buy it, OK.

And there it ended.

So tonight, when the kids are asleep (hopefully!)  I shall sit watching Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries on TV with my printed pdfs, a roll of sticky tape (if the kids haven't used it all) and maybe a glass of wine, and stick to my heart's content. Ah, bliss ;-)

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By the way, thank you so much for all your lovely comments on my Minoru Jacket. What a fabulous thing it is to have such wonderfully supportive bloggy friends. And hey, you save me from boring the ears off my non-crafty offline friends ;-)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A weekend away

Last weekend we had a few days away with some old friends, one of which had just celebrated her birthday.

We enjoyed staying at a great house again. I wish I lived here for all the great photo backdrops!

And we enjoyed cooking and eating some great food, including this naan made by birthday girl. Note the many uses for a wine bottle :-)

We also enjoyed some of our favourite beverages, including champagne (birthday girl's favourite), great wines (wisely chosen by birthday girl's guitar playing other half) and great coffee - our friends are as obsessed by good coffee as we are so we always take the coffee machine, grinder and fresh beans with us ;-) And last but not least we had this amazing ginger beer that I've been dreaming of ever since, made with birthday girl's favourite cooking gadget.

Of course there was also time for some crafting by the kids and us big girls.

Including a new addition to my ever expanding array of polymer clay necklaces, this one using a metallic grey clay.

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Has anyone else been having troubles with the new Blogger interface? The formatting is doing my head in... arghh!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My finished Minoru

It's done, woo hoo! This pattern, the Minoru Jacket from Vancouver based designer Tasia of Sewaholic has been a really enjoyable project and had lots of little features to keep me interested. For once I slowed down and traded my usual 'quick & dirty' sewing style for slow and measured, and enjoyed the journey. I'd read that several people felt their jacket came together quickly, but for me it didn't - I spent ages on it, but enjoyed it all and feel satisfied that I've done it to the best of my ability. Along the way I checked the Sew-along posts on the Sewaholic blog and found the little hints and tips very helpful.

There are lots of notes following for those interested. And plenty of pictures. I figure that considering I spent so long making it I might as well splurge on the pics ;-)


I don't like to think of the main fabric as denim, though it is - I'm really not into wearing 'double denim' at all. And I will probably wear my jacket with jeans most of the time, if I'm honest - I'm a jeans girl at heart. So I didn't set out looking for denim but loved this when I saw it. And it has a little stretch too, which lets me wear it quite fitted while still allowing movement. The lining is a beautiful Amy Butler cotton print that I'd been coveting for ages.

The only other thing to note is that though I didn't feel the denim was too thick when I bought it, now that it's finished it does feel quite bulky. So when I make another (I'm sure I won't be able to resist one day) I'll choose a lighter weight fabric. We've had a lot of rain here lately but I couldn't wear it as I'd be way too hot, so a lighter one would be handy.

As I mentioned in this post, I felt so happy with my selection of both the outer and lining... until I absent mindedly threw it all into the washing machine to pre-wash it and the dye in the denim ran like crazy all over the beautiful lining fabric. I have tried a few things to set it, and to cut a long story short, I'm still not sure it won't leave me looking like a smurf if I get stuck in rain, but I'll give it a go. And if it does... I'll swear. A lot.

Zip & top stitching

I had trouble finding a zip long enough for the front, as I note many others did too. The great chartreuse zip I found on that heady fabric shopping day was just going to be way too short, so I resorted to a blue one, which is still too short but acceptable to me. Also the pop of colour, when I tried it,made the jacket look more sporty than I was aiming for, so it turned out well. Needless to say, my seam ripper was busy on this project! I didn't want to be wishing I'd done something different later on.

I had high hopes for the top stitching after seeing this version where it's a strong feature. But I had to limit my use of it when I just couldn't get the tension right on both sides, so where both sides were to be seen I used ordinary black thread which became almost invisible. I also can't use a double needle on my machine, so had to line it up by eye and it's a bit wonky in spots, but not to worry.


I loved the inside pockets (see lining pic) but decided to make them blend in with the lining by using the lining fabric as opposed to the outer fabric. I didn't want to interrupt the lovely print with big squares of dark colour.

And as I noted many others did, I added pockets to the outside. I can see the merit in leaving the silhouette clean, as the pattern's been designed, and my pockets do push it out of shape a little, but overall I felt it was more important to have them. While doing my research on sewing blogs I loved seeing all the different pockets being added by people, and though the side seam pockets that I did are not in such a natural place (being at the sides rather than a bit further forward where the hands would naturally sit) they're the right solution for me. This tutorial is pretty much how I did mine, and how I add side seam pockets to any garment.


This was fun to make. I think the design is really clever and Tasia has done a great job on the pattern. I did a French seam down the centre as I couldn't bear to see an awful overlooked edge, and I like the way it looks. I loved the lined versions I'd seen and knew it would be simple to do, but my denim was quite thick already and I didn't want to add bulk. When I fold my hood up and zip it into the collar it's a bit bulky and doesn't sit flat, but again that's my choice of fabric.

The only small thing I'd fault about the pattern is that it bothered me that the raw seam around the neck is visible through the zippered opening. This probably doesn't make sense unless you've made the pattern, but if you do, can I urge you to finish off both of those seams after you've sewn them and before you top stitch them. I'm thinking I'll add a line of top stitching (black) to seal it off.

So, all in all I loved this pattern. It was a very big project for me, but enjoyable right the way through and with a result that I'm pleased with.

Check out more creative spaces over here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A weekend with my big girl

I don't want to jinx myself, but somehow my computer problem has seemed to just right itself!? Strange beasts, these things that delight and enslave us... maybe it didn't hate me after all, just needed a break ;-) I'm keeping my fingers crossed/

The weekend before last the Mr took the two littlies away for 2 nights and I got the big girl all to myself. It was amazing to focus on her without having everyone else to consider, not to mention physically look after, break up squabbles, deal with jealousy etc.

During the weekend I had a flashback to the days when I was pregnant with her and thought that having just one precious child would be a lovely thing (before this I wasn't sure I wanted any at all). Then somehow as time went on and we got used to being a family it turned into wanting 3 and here we are today. I wouldn't have it any other way of course, but things would certainly be different if I'd stuck to the plan!

On our weekend together we:

• Went to the visiting Picasso exhibition. She squeeled with delight when I suggested this. Oh please, can I keep her this way when she's a teenager?!

• At her suggestion, had yum cha at the lovely vegan restaurant Bodhi where we could both eat anything offered - a rare thing considering she's allergic to eggs and I'm vegetarian. A highlight for me: tom yum noodles, and for her: passionfruit agar jelly. Yum!

• Took her 2 best buddies to a local organic market. They ate dumplings, bought Guatemalan worry dolls and had pony rides. I bought smoked spiced salt and chose a present for her dad (the Mr). Dads need treats too, after all ;-) We loved the locally designed and screen printed "Ned Kelly" tshirt.

• Ate our favourite pasta dish on the sofa in front of a movie she'd been wanting to see

• Used her Christmas Smiggle voucher on some cute new stationery for a bit of afternoon craft

and generally spent lots of time holding hands and chatting. And when she slept, I stitched of course :-).

It was just a lovely lovely time together that I'm extremely grateful for.

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