Friday, October 29, 2010


These have been really handy.

 I made the smaller two for myself about a year ago when I had the use of my aunty's machine. I didn't use a pattern, and alas found two problems with what I'd done. Sewing was fine, but I filled one with sand and now it leaks sand dust every time it's moved. The other was made partially with vinyl, it's stretched and sagged a little and won't last more than a couple of years.
So this time I went with a pattern and followed the directions (almost). The book Simple Sewing by Lotta Jansdotter has a great pattern for a doorstop. It sews together great, no problems with it. Perhaps it's a little large? This one's for my Mum who has two doors and three dogs who need to come and go without a shut door getting in their way, and a fully opened door might be too much some days. Needless to say another doorstop is also needed. She'll be getting two for Christmas.

I used some nice upholstery fabric and some excellent lacquered hardcore waterproof stuff I got from a designer sale years ago. Here's where I varied from the directions - I filled it with whatever dried goods I had on hand. Pearl barley, lentils, dried beans and also some synthetic stuffing to give it some shape up top.
These are such a nice way to show off some favourite (hard-wearing) fabrics. We should all open doors sometime during the week to let in some fresh air. We all need doorstops. Doorstops are great. Hee

Rag quilt

Phew, done. This beautiful 'rag quilt' for Hugo.
Easy as, simply cut squares of fabric, either two or three layers depending on thickness, I was told a layer of cotton, flannel in between, and cotton again on the back is recommended. Don't use stretch fabrics, I tried some stretch merino wool and it was a mess, the quick-unpick ripped out some tangled seams.
Quilt with an X.  

then stitch together in your desired pattern. I found it easiest to complete rows first, then sew rows together. If the corners were too thick (or not matching up as well as you'd like) I suggest doing what I did sometimes - stitching square by square, reinforcing seams with backstitching. Otherwise, if things were looking good I'd lay the top seam facing forward and the underneath seam facing backward and push it through the machine. The fabric caught by this needs to be snipped out to freely fray, if you get what I mean...

 Now down to business. Trim the sides into fraying notches. If you have spring-loaded scissors, use them now. I didn't, and it wasn't bad at all using regular sewing scissors (they must be sharp though).
Throw into the washing machine, then the clothes dryer (regular cycles).
The more you wash the greater it looks (more frayed).
[with flash]

[without flash]

Some details:
Fabric is by Heather Bailey, her Nicey Jane line. The lime green with birds and flowers is by Patty Young for Michael Miller (Hummingbirds in Lime, some available here on NZ site trademe). Love these fabrics, the colours are sorta juicy, edible, and they go so well with the walls. Tried to choose boy colours, but young boy colours and they had to please me and Georgia too (who shares a room with him).
The size is for standard (American) cot size, 1300mm long. The squares are 20cm with 1.5cm (1/2 inch) seam allowance. I used 48 squares (8x6), so used 5 colours, 40cm (1/2 yard) each with one colour using only 8 squares while the rest used 10.

The backing is some micro-fleece I bought to make Hugo a dressing gown. The grandies bought him one so I didn't need to make one. I had nearly enough, so made up the rest of the squares withe some vintage blue felted wool and I cut up a yellow baby's sleeping bag I didn't use. I laid them using a quick sketch plan of colours, randomly placed with an attempt to have one colour each row somewhere. Didn't look at the back, but I knew it would work out ok because the fronts were planned and mainly used just one colour for each different coloured backing fabric. But really, was just random.

Can you believe I almost cut up this  cutie little vintage yellow baby's coat? I didn't use it for Georgia and it's been stored away since, but actually I think Adelaide will be the right size for it next winter. So glad I kept it.

The thread is this Metler poly sheen multi, 100% polyester, Japan made, no.40 - and it changes from blue to gold to brown as you go. It added interest and something special to the handmade appeal of making your own quilt. If nobody else notices it, at least I'm glad I used it.
Apparently these quilts are popular at the moment. I can see why. They look snuggly, they ARE snuggly! They are beautiful, they show off your favourite fabrics. Quick and easy to make (mine took approx two mornings plus cutting time) and they are a good introduction to quilting. You can use a regular sewing machine, and you don't need to quilt the thing in its entirety, just square by square.
This is my first quilt. I think I'll be making more of these, in girl colours. I can't wait!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fabric coming out my ears

It's been stashed away in cupboards, drawers, and most recently the garage, for what seems like years. Actually, it has been years. I've dabbled in sewing over the last decade. When I was a teenager I sewed some gorgeous things. Some I made without patterns, others using ambitious vintage patterns. All this increased my sewing skills until I felt quite confident. Then my old 1950s machine broke and I never got a new one. Until last week. A 1987(?) Husqvarna Prisma. Just in need of a service, which it got, and also needs the zigzag function fixed (yet to happen, gonna cost a bit of $$).
I tipped out the fabric stash to air in the sun - here is about half the pile. I feel guilty and inspired.
Some of it is beautiful and some just functional. I have books by Lotta JansdotterAna-Maria Horner and various vintage patterns ready to go. All cut-out, and now I'm too blimmin tired to sew! Needless to say, watch this space.

A fresh start

Most mornings lately I've been starting the day with one of these smoothies.
Made from banana, gold kiwifruit, frozen blueberries and cranberry juice (all in varying amounts, depending on what I have and what I happen to slosh in). Whizzed up for a minute or so it turns this beautiful shade of pink. We all love it. The kids have theirs with straws.  I really want one of these old fashioned milkshake straw holders.
Healthy, wealthy and wise. At least I'm making inroads to getting the first one covered...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

a kiwi tradition - pavlova

I made my first pavlova. Finally! 

Our 1970s oven is substandard (the swing door is broken so it doesn't stay closed, the temperature gauge is off so I don't know what it's set at, the gauge is in old gas marks too to make it harder, the oven cavity is small so standard trays don't fit and I have to use roasting trays for baking...) but if it can cook a pavlova then it can cook anything I think.
This was nice with whipped cream and fruit on top.
The recipe, from this book, tells you to put all ingredients in a bowl at once and set them mixing in the machine for 10-12 minutes. Could it get any easier (except the part where you have to separate the eggs, groan).
With three egg yolks left over it had to be poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce.

beurre de Paris

This handy butter creates a French flavour in an instant. I make it up as a batch and keep it rolled in waxed paper in the fridge and just slice a bit off when I need it.
Use it to serve with steak and potatoes, use it to season vegetables as you cook them (especially good with mushrooms), use it to bake fish in the oven wrapped in tin foil (aluminum foil).
So, so good. Every time. In an instant!

Here's how to make it:
Sauté a sliced shallot or two in some butter, add a clove or two of sliced garlic. Throw in a handful of chopped parsley (Italian flat leaf or the curly variety), a teaspoon of whole-grain mustard, then cook this until the shallots are turning transparent, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the mixture to about 150g of softened butter. Stir it together, form into a log, wrap in waxed paper and keep in the fridge. I don't know how long it keeps, probably best to use it up within the month...
Your family and friends will think you are an amazing chef. ;)

a special cake

 I'm making this cake for my mother's 50th birthday, which is coming up in a few weeks. The cake improves with keeping so I thought a good 6 weeks would do nicely. This is the third time I've used a Christmas cake recipe from this book and it's a good one! (Just discovered the author has provided FREE recipes online). It makes a huge cake (fits a 10 inch tin well) as it uses a pound each of flour, sugar, butter, raisins, sultanas, currants and a whole lot of extras.

I adjusted the ingredients slightly, substituting fresh NZ walnuts and some pistachios in place of the almonds. I also used some glorious huge golden raisins, some raz cherries, goji berries, cranberries and various other types of raisins. Yep, the ingredients for this cake cost a lot, including the 9 eggs (yes, 9!) but I think my Mum's worth it.

You can see some of the brands I used here:
I especially love the Angas Park brand, the figs I used here, but all their range is fantastic, juicy, yum.

Did I mention it makes a big cake? I had to borrow my aunty's baking bowl again. It's so tough to stir at the end they recommend using your hand, and that was truly the only way to get through it.
Cooked for 4 hours.

 My handy helper, he actually cracked every one of the 9 eggs himself, without spilling.

Smells amazing. The odours emanated from the cake the next day, then I wrapped it up in waxed paper.
I'll post again when I ice it - the usual almond paste icing topped with white butter-cream. I need to get creative with the decoration, perhaps fresh flowers for once, or some pearlised icing balls around the base...

toddler bed

While we're on the subject of Dad making things too, here is the little toddler sized bed Chris made for Hugo. It is the same size as his cot, but without the sides. We're gonna have to cram three kids into the one room very soon. Two big single beds doesn't make sense, and he's going to be little for at least a few more years. So here was the solution: DSCN0490a 

He made it out of four-by-two and MDF for the slats (which are secured by screws). We were concerned about the sharp (sanded back) corners so stapled on some circles of camp mattress foam to protect little heads and limbs from taking a bang. He hasn't finished yet, it needs a headboard and some better padding around the rim.  DSCN0491a
And I have to sew a valance and a new quilt (my first attempt it will be! I've been eyeing up this pattern and these fabrics which sell at a local shop). More on quilts coming up soon.
Hugo loves his new bed. It's his 'big boy' bed. He's been in it a few days now and he's even staying in it for his afternoon sleeps, so I'm keeping my sanity. So thanks Dad for taking the initiative and making something so neat for the kids!

kite making

The wind has made its presence felt these last two days. The promised storm turned up in time for us to collect Georgia from Kindy. I huggled Hugo against the thunder and lightening and we made a dash for it. Got soaked, of course. But we lit the fire and got warm again, then the sun came out. Typical, four seasons in one day. The wind dried up everything and the storm was nothing much to see here. Other parts of the country got blasted and power is still out to thousands, though.

So the wind made mincemeat of the washing today. At last I could give the clothes drier a rest! I love line-dried washing. Every part of the process pleases me, Perhaps I am strange, but it really makes me happy. It's a nice excuse to get outside and into the fresh air. The clothes get ironed by the wind. I feel like I've achieved something, which I don't when I use the drier. It saves power too, which is great after the rather large winter power bills...
Motivated by the wind, Chris decided to make a kite with the kids. I used to make these with my Opa and cousins as a child. So much fun, especially all the cello-taping. DSCN0515a
He had a rough idea what to do, but got some tips from this site. We went for the standard diamond shape. Georgia was most interested in making the pretty tail, naturally.  DSCN0516a
With so much anticipation the kids thrust themselves out the door to the park (we live next to a great park) and Chris tried to get it going. Yeah, well. Tried. DSCN0522a
The wind was too strong and too haphazard. This way then the other way in the same breath. The kite got off the ground a few times. The kids didn't mind, they were thrilled. But it was a bit dangerous, spinning in mid-air and behaving completely erratically and looking like an injury hazard. It nose-dived and took a chunk of muddy grass with it. They were screaming with excitement, but we had to reign them in and seat them on a park bench to watch, which took all the fun out of it.
Another attempt to fly... DSCN0527a
Then he gave up. 
If you are to try making one of these for yourself, here are some notes:
  • Use strong plastic for the main sail.
  • Make the kite balanced, so it sits nice and level when you hold the string. Tie strings to all four corners to attain this balance.
  • Don't make the kite too big, and wait for a windy day, but not gales! And keep your kids safe by maintaining a distance further than the length of string.
Sweet Georgia made one herself after. It was heavily stapled, cello-taped, drawn on, then all that folded inside and stapled again with a pretty ribbon for the tail (and string). Outside to fly it, no luck, but no worries. She was so pleased with it. DSCN0530a 

a slice of early Christmas

Earlier this week I made a batch of this slice, altering it slightly by using walnuts and hazelnuts in place of pinenuts, and icing it with coffee butter icing instead of the sickly sweet white chocolate ganache. 

 Had some leftover mixture so I dunked those in some melted white chocolate because that's my husband's favourite and when that ran out I used coconut.  DSCN0481a
 Completely unintentionally, they looked fit for Christmas after-dinner treats with the white snow effect. I thought I could do these specially for the big day, despite the fact we don't have snow here at Christmas. See the tiny peeps of green and red from the pistachios and the cranberries? So Christmas.
Anyway, I boxed some up to take to a dinner party. They looked so cute! The Russian fudge was just an extra smack of sugar I really didn't need, but I had a spare half can of sweetened condensed milk to use up. What's a girl to do? Surprisingly I have fit into a new (tiny) pair of jeans this week, so perhaps eating what you like is good for you? Of course it is. DSCN0480a


We've had a lot of yellow here these last few days. Not only the sunny daffodils (on not so sunny days) to remind us of spring, but also my boy's new favourite word, 'lello', and sometimes more like 'lelilelillo'. He loves to wrap his long tongue around that word. He tells me whenever he sees some  yellow. He chooses to wear his yellow shoes in place of his usual blue ones, 'not bue, lellilo'. 

He chooses his yellow shirt whenever it's not in the wash. Lucky he suits the colour, well his hair is kinda yellow too, maybe more white actually... DSCN0496a
  The yellow has spilled into our kitchen too. We made a batch of orange cakes today. And iced our carrot cake with lello icing, with sprinkles of lemon rind.  DSCN0500
  Hugo has his yellow boots at the door next to Georgia's. It's still raining so they're still in use. DSCN0494a
 The hallway's getting rather cluttered with the dual seasonal gear of sun hats and wool hats, raincoats and umbrellas, sunblock and storm covers for the pushchair - all at the ready for getting out the door in this strange season. Although I do feel a wonderful freedom from winter. It's over, even if 'a massive storm is heading towards New Zealand' as I write. I'm keeping up with the spring cleaning and I'm looking forward to the gale force winds to clean out the cobwebs, real and in my foggy mind (I'm still blaming the nappy brain).
And at the end of our days, Yellow is there at bathtime too. DSCN0495a