Wednesday, 26 February 2014

planning, planning

I have a real thing for pretty sewing patterns. Actually make that pretty fabric and sewing patterns. They are my Achilles heel. I think I can safely say I have far more patterns than I am ever likely to sew up in my lifetime.

Surely that means I don't need any more. You know I'm kidding, right? What kind of crazy proposition is that? I'm not sure that I'll ever get to a point where my collecting phase of patterns is done. There are just so many sweet ones out there, especially when you're talking kid's clothes.

Some of my very favourite designs come from these Japanese books. Let's just ignore for a minute that all the sewing instructions are, in fact, in Japanese and concentrate on the pictures OK? These are so perfectly styled. They have cute, simple and stylish wrapped up. When I look at these books I want to make everything out of them.

Unfortunately, the one thing that is not so pretty is the pattern pages. Everything's crammed onto a page with the cutting and sewing instructions in Japanese. Also there are no seam allowances included in any of the patterns. So you have to add those yourself. Really not something you want to be doing with toddlers running around. Don't say I didn't warn you.

But you know what, for the designs I can overlook all those things. I've made a few things out of these books now and I kinda love the challenge of them. Like puzzles to put together. Puzzles that sometimes hurt your head, a lot. So for now I'm just planning, planning, planning all the things I'm going to make from these. Even tracing a few out. Hopefully my brain will be up to the challenge soon.

Want to know what's all kinds of awesome? Some of these books have been translated and are coming out in English now! I know, right?! There may be room on my shelf for a few more patterns yet.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

tick tock

This year is screaming by so fast already isn't it? Where has February gone?

It seems like I only just planted those little seeds into the ground, but look at them! Ever so quietly they've been inching their way upwards. I went out to water them today and it became very obvious that I need to get myself into gear. The garden needs some work done before I can get these sweet little plants into the soil and a step closer to our plates. I suppose that's one of the up sides to planting from seed. They force you to get your act together!

This weekend the garden beds will get some clearing out. They'll need some topping up with compost, manure and blood and bone. Hopefully, if I don't leave my run too late, the beds will have some time to rest before I put in my new little plants.

This weekend! It has to happen. See those plants have started the stopwatch running and I need to make sure I don't drop the ball.

How are your garden preparations going? Are you better organised than I am?

Monday, 24 February 2014

a forgotten stash

I'm one of those funny monogamist (well partial monogamist if there is such a thing) crafters who works on only one craft at a time. I'm not the cheating kind, you see. I go through periods where all I'll do is sew. Then I might knit or crochet for a few months. But I generally won't knit, crochet or sew at the same time. It's one or the other. A swinger, I am not.
Today I was sorting through some things in my craft room, when I stumbled upon a long forgotten stash. A box full of wool and pretty yarns and a sadly neglected almost finished project. You see, once upon a time I used to be a knitter! I have a whole blanket box full of the knitted and crocheted things I've made. But somewhere along the way I seem to have fallen out of love with my knitting and crochet.

I've been crushing on sewing for sometime now, leaving my knitting literally gathering dust. In my box of woolly treasures I found an almost finished pebble that I was making for my eldest child when he was a baby. If I hurry up, it might just fit my third born. The crazy thing is, it's only a few lines short of being finished. I cannot remember why I put this project down when it has such a small amount of work left to be done on it. I know I wasn't in love with the yarn. I'm still not. It's some weird bamboo blend that I picked up off the sale rack at spotlight and it felt kind of sticky on my hands to knit. Still doesn't explain why I stopped just a few lines short of finishing.

Annoyingly it's losing fibres everywhere. It's like a dust storm when I pick it up. I'm not sure if the moths have been into it, or if the yarn is just plain disintegrating? Is it even worth finishing?

Sigh. Another sad discovery is the state of some of my nickel plated knitpicks needles. I love these so much, but the ones that weren't packed away properly have lost their smooth, shiny finish. It's like they've been eroded or something?  I'm not sure why it happened or if there's anything I can do to repair them either. If anyone has any tips on how to bring the needles back to life I'd surely appreciate them. Can they be polished?

So, I'm starting to think there needs to be a little more free love in the craft room. Share myself around a bit. I don't know, maybe mix a cocktail and have the odd double date. Yarn and fabric, we can all get along, can't we? I don't want to get a reputation or anything, but a little bit of love goes a long way, right?

Sunday, 23 February 2014

an afternoon walk

One of my favourite things to do over the weekend is to take a long walk. If I'm really lucky (and my husband can mind the kids for a little while) a walk all on my own. Bliss! I just love walking around where we live. Taking the time to unwind from all the busyness of life. To take in the beautiful countryside and really appreciate my surroundings. Breathe in the sweet air, which smells at it's most amazing after a storm. Sometimes I talk out loud to myself (am I the only one who does that?), which is fine because there are only the cows to think I'm crazy. I'm sure they think I'm a bit bonkers, but at least they can't tell me so!

It helps me to feel ready for the week ahead, as well as enjoying the moment I am in. Sometimes life just seems to move too fast, doesn't it?

On my walk today, I pushed myself through the grass to the top of the big hill where I could look out over the valley. When I reached the top I was filled with gratitude. Nature has this amazing way of reminding us to live every day and embrace the life we are given. And just like that I feel ready for the week ahead.

Do you like to walk? How do you like to recharge yourself at the end of the week?

Friday, 21 February 2014

a dusty piano

Firstly I just want to say a huge thanks to you all for helping me out with my pot question! I'm still not exactly sure what it is, but I might just have a crack at fermenting in it and see how it goes. What's the worst that could happen? (No-one mention botulism OK? Good!)

So I sat down at my beloved piano for the first time in what feels like years today. It felt like an old friend that I have missed for far too long. I used to play a lot, but now with 3 kids, well almost never. My hands were stiff and could hardly play. But it made me really, really happy. Actually, it's such a rare occasion that my husband couldn't believe it and made this little video. I hope you'll forgive the less than perfect playing!

Happy weekend to you! I hope you can find time to do something that you love.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

does anyone know what this is?

So I bought this massive pot at my local op shop, and was so excited because I thought it was a fermenting crock. We grew a good crop of cabbages last year, which gave me a hankering for some sauerkraut. I've been on the lookout for a fermenting crock ever since and when I saw this pot for a bargain price I had to snap it up.

Problem is, since I've brought it home, I'm not sure if it actually is a fermenting crock? It's got a cork in the lid, which is removable. I've never seen a fermenting crock with a removable cork, which now has me wondering if that is actually what I've bought? Is it a bread crock maybe?

It's one of those super heavy glazed pots and it's got a Pearsons of Chesterfield 1810 stamp on the bottom of it. It's pretty huge too, looks like it could fit a decent amount of something in it at the very least. I really don't know. If it's a bread crock, I probably can't ferment in it, right?

The picture with the tennis ball gives an indication of its size. Does anyone know what this thing is? Anyone?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

blueberry cordial

Blueberries! Oh what tasty little morsels they are. One of the first things I did when we bought our place, was plant a row of blueberries in our orchard. I love them so much and have great plans for growing bucketloads of them. Sadly, I'm not having much success with my poor old blueberries at the moment. Several of my plants went belly up in last year's floods (apparently they like really good drainage). This year I've lost a couple more in our summer drought. In fact, I've only got a few healthy looking ones left. And the grand harvest, well that's it in the picture above. Yeah, less than impressive, I know.

I'm not ready to throw down my shovel yet though. I'm certain there's a blueberry farmer in me somewhere. I think I've been coming at this blueberry growing thing from the wrong angle. I just need to change my strategy a bit. So, instead of going back to the drawing board and buying new plants, I've invested in a pair of binoculars instead. You see I have some neighbours who seem to have blueberry growing down pat. My new plan is to take up the gentle art of stickybeaking for the next little while, until I can work this blueberry growing caper out. I really don't think I can take any more of those poor little plants shrivelling up and dying.

In the meantime, at least I've got the neighbours to buy from.

One of my favourite things to do with blueberries? Make blueberry cordial (which is like a blueberry syrup for my northern hemisphere friends). This stuff is super duper scrummy. It's like essence of blueberry in a bottle. Man alive this stuff is good. Really good, like it's all mine, keep your hands off it good. It's so tasty, you're going to want to keep a secret stash of it somewhere for later.

How to Make My Blueberry Cordial

For every kilogram of fruit, add half a kilo sugar and 1 litre rainwater to your pan (if you don't have rainwater, make sure your water has been filtered). Also add 2 teaspoons citric acid. Boil up for about 15 minutes, until fruit is mushy. Taste it. If your fruit is really tart, you may need to add some more sugar. Our neighbour's blueberries are sweet, so this tastes about right. Strain through a jellybag and pour into your sterilised bottles.

Keep in the fridge. Or if you want to keep them in the pantry, you need to process in a boiling water bath. I sterilise my bottles in my Fowlers Vacola.

So how do you drink it?
The PG version: Mix it up with ice cold water over ice.
The AO version: Mix with some vodka over ice and some sprigs of mint. Yes, you're welcome.

Monday, 17 February 2014

a village frock

This dress has been on my 'to do' list for far too long. I am so glad I finally got my act together and sewed this one up. It's the Village Frock by Sugar City Dresses and it was love at first sight when I first caught my eye on this version. Sadly it's near impossible to get your hands on these days, as it's long out of print. Took me ages to track one down. A huge thanks to the lovely lady who helped me out!

What can I say about this pattern, other than I love, love, LOVE it? I'm not sure I've been so giddy about a pattern since I made the puppet show tunic a couple of years ago. Seriously, this village frock is one of the sweetest little patterns I have ever sewed up!

I used a plain cotton/linen blend for the main part of the dress, to really bring out the beauty of those gorgeous gathers (although I've seen some beautiful versions done in prints!) Then I bound it all in a Liberty Tana Lawn.

I only made a couple of changes to the pattern. I lengthened it by a good couple of inches, as it seemed to be on the short side. I also changed the way the loops were supposed to be attached, so they're enclosed by the binding. They're such a pretty feature that I decided to attach them from the front to really show them off.

This little dress makes me so happy and reminded me once again why I love to sew. The huge satisfaction that comes from creating something with your own hands. Such a wonderful pattern that makes a special dress unlike any seen in the shops. A pattern I'll definitely be making again and again.

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Sunday, 16 February 2014

a good weekend

Just a few snippets from our weekend. It's been another full and busy weekend around these parts. Sometimes I really feel like I need a weekend to recover from the weekend! On top of the normal hustle and bustle, there was a little bit of driving around our neighbourhood enjoying the beautiful outdoors, some much needed rain (not enough, but we'll take what we can get), plenty of delicious food and even a little bit of sewing (those who follow me on instagram got a little sneak peak!)

I have to ask, is there anything better than linen and liberty fabric? Really, I'm just not sure. I'm pretty excited with what I'm cooking up in the craft room at the moment. Now I'm on the lookout for the perfect buttons.

Just my kind of weekend really. I feel well and truly tuckered out.

How about you? What did your weekend look like? Do you need a weekend to recover from the weekend as well? Hope you had a nice one as well!

Thursday, 13 February 2014


We have new life!

Aren't they just the cutest little things? I'm like an excited little kid when my seeds start to sprout. So much possibility in these new little seedlings. The time before the bugs find them, when they are shiny and new with perfectly formed little leaves. When you can imagine how they'll grow in the garden and everything they'll become.

Of course, Mother Nature always loves to throw you a few curve balls. Gardening rarely runs to plan. Bugs come and flatten crops overnight. Caterpillars? Cut worms? Monolepta beetles? Something new perhaps? Scorching days might just fry them off before they have a chance to grow. But at this stage, well this stage anything is possible!

In the next couple of months I'll do what I can to help them reach their full potential. I'll be cheering them on! Feeding them water and transplanting them when they've grown just enough. But just in case, I may do another planting of seeds in a couple of weeks. Not that I'm trying to jinx things or anything. Definitely not. I'm Team Seedlings all the way.  
Grow little plants grow!

The garden is a crazy busy place at the moment. Still harvesting like mad. Bringing in corn, zucchinis, capsicums (peppers), basil, carrots and greens. I'm hoping for a quick turnaround for the new season which will mean a massive garden clean out very soon, so I have time to replenish the soil. It will need some compost and manure before it's ready to take on the new arrivals.

And there's something else in the works. A new project I'm particularly excited about. It's a trash-turned-to-treasure project that I can't wait to share. Just a little sneak peak for now, but stay tuned!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

endings and beginnings

The summer garden is drawing to a close. We are harvesting what we can, getting ready to plant again for the new season. It is still terribly hot here, and I find myself at this time of year longing for the shift that comes with autumn.

It's always a slow change in our part of the world. Usually it's March before it starts to creep in at the corners of the day. It's subtle at first, only noticeable early in the morning and at dusk when the stifling heat becomes more pleasant. Then one day, the evening will feel crisp and you'll find yourself looking for a jumper and thinking about lighting the fire.

The heat in the middle of the day can still linger on for many more months, even into winter. But that shift, it's enough to make a huge impact on the garden. We can think again about peas and brassicas. Leafy greens become much easier to grow, staying sweet and swelling to size, unlike the hot summer months when they are lean, bitter and bolt to seed soon after planting. The chillies will continue to grow right through depending on whether we get frosts over winter.

The shady places in the garden, which are favoured in summer, are no longer preferred. Full sunshine is needed over the colder months, although some things will still grow in the shaded pockets. English spinach and a few greens managed in full shade throughout winter last year. I'll be experimenting with a few new things this cold season as well. I don't think there will ever be a time that the garden won't be teaching me something new.

It's a wonderful time in the garden. Full of the promise of the season ahead, while still enjoying the bounty of summer's labour. The summer clean up is always the busiest time, but it's like having a storm before the calm. With the cooler weather, the bugs and critters will decrease, the growing of the plants will slow to a more reasonable pace and you can really relax into the gardening. This is really the start of our growing year and I can't wait.

What's going on in your garden? Are you just thinking about planting again? Or is your garden still in full swing?

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

project mustard

It's probably quite obvious by now, that I am quite smitten with the whole bottling/preserving/canning affair. However, what you don't see in my pictures of pretty preserves is my husband's face every time I mention I'm about to embark on another round of "vacola-ing". 

He is supportive, oh yes, definitely supportive, but enthusiastic? Well, not exactly.

So when I mentioned that my next thing on the "to do" list was mustard, I was quite shocked when my husband took over the reins and decided it was to be his little preserving project. We all love mustard in this house. In fact, I haven't met many mustards I don't like and really the recipe seemed so simple that I couldn't believe this project would be anything but a raging success.

Unfortunately it was not to be. The first lot of mustard we made (yes we, I played kitchen hand) was a flat out disaster. A truly burn-your-insides-right-out-through-your-nasal-passage-can't-breathe-aching-belly-inedible disaster.

I'm sad to say that lot of mustard had to be binned. There was no rescuing it. This mustard in the picture was the second attempt. Much, much better and quite tasty (it's a beer and something mustard). However, it's still not drool worthy, much to my husband's disappointment and mine as well, as sadly he's thrown in his preserving towel.

But I'm not going to have it. I'm determined he will succeed. To get that man straight back on the mustard horse that threw him. I'm going back to the drawing board on this one. To be the little-engine-who-could.

We will make a stellar mustard. We will make a stellar mustard! Hmmm well, just as soon as my poor aching belly has had a little rest.

Yield: 2, no. 10 bottles and 4, no. 3 bottles of very average mustard.
Lessons learned: try a small batch of mustard first before buying 3kgs of mustard seeds.

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