Monday, 30 December 2013

a gingerbread house

So I started thinking today, it might be time to go and see the dentist. I have a sore tooth, which I'm sure has nothing to do with this.
This year's Gingerbread House

Whose harebrained idea was it to start decorating a gingerbread house at Christmas time?

Those things might look pretty as a picture, but they are evil temptresses. There is no way to build one of those things and not have an all out sugar fest. And it's the sugar overload that keeps on giving. You eat lollies when you make the gingerbread house, the left over sweets when you finish making the gingerbread house and then of course there's the wall-to-wall-candy-furnished gingerbread house to polish off at the end. I tell you I didn't really think it through when I first saw the gingerbread house for sale for $6. Sadly I think the dentist is going to tell me the gingerbread house has cost me a lot more than 6 bucks. Sheesh. New Year's Resolution: No more lollies.

Tell me, could you resist?
Last year's Gingerbread House

Sunday, 29 December 2013

ice cream blouse

In the Christmas rush of making things, when time was short, I pulled out a few of my old favourite patterns I knew wouldn't fail me. This time another Oliver + S pattern, the Ice Cream Blouse.

This is such a pretty blouse pattern. It's an easy sew, and cleverly put together. Only 3 pattern pieces to cut out. Love that! No collars or setting in sleeves. It comes together really quickly and the first time I made it I was really impressed with the construction. It's got such a nice roomy fit on a toddler and made up in a soft Japanese lawn, it must feel like heaven to wear. My daughter never wants to take it off and loves to stroke the soft, silky fabric. Oh and can someone please remind me why I didn't buy this gorgeous fabric in both colourways when it was readily available? For some crazy reason (I dunno, something to do with too much fabric in my closet, baa humbug) I put the other equally lovely purple version of these lovely houses back on the shelf. Yes, bear with me while I shed a silent tear.

I did make a few changes to this pattern. Firstly I lengthened the blouse by about an inch and a half to fit my tall girl. I also modified the way the back comes together. While there is nothing wrong with Liesl's instructions, I wanted to add a little more ease to the neck opening to make it easier to get on and off. I also wanted to strengthen the back join, as my little one is quite rough with her clothes and this join can have a tendency to rip.


For those interested, the way I do it is to find the halfway point of the back fabric, slit it about 2 inches and then bind the cut with a small amount of bias binding (made in matching fabric). The back then comes together as 2 separate pieces joined by the button closure. I also add an extra button closure to prevent too much of a gap. I do love the clean look of the original design- this is not quite as neat and tidy looking as Liesl's way, but it's a super quick fix that increases the wearability for my girl! Made in a size 3, it should fit for a good while.


Saturday, 28 December 2013

preserving season

As soon as the super hot, sticky summer days arrive, I know preserving season (or canning season for my American friends) is almost here. Usually it's on the hottest days of the entire year that the bottling gets done- probably some ridiculous 40-something degree day in the middle of a crazy heatwave and I'm up to my elbows in fruit! It's definitely not ideal, but it's because of those same hot conditions that the produce must be dealt with immediately, so it doesn't spoil. While most of my preserving is excess that I have grown myself, it also comes to me from family and friends. One of the only things I do preserve here which I don't usually have excess of is tomatoes. Oh why oh why can't I grow tomatoes?! I preserve more tomatoes than anything else, but those red jewels always seem elude me. While I'm lucky enough to live in paradise, the climate really does suck for growing tomatoes. Firstly we have the battle against the Queensland fruit fly, which will infest a whole crop. We also tend to get excess rain at the wrong time which causes the fruit to split and ruin. Then there's the whole satin bowerbird issue (my unwavering nemesis), where they'll steal anything that starts to even get a hint of red in it. Fortunately we have lots of locals who grow their crops under poly tunnels, escaping a lot of these problems. I'm still trying to convince my husband that I need a poly tunnel of my own. Ahhh, a girl can dream right?

I like to do my preserving the traditional Aussie way, in my trusty, vintage, stainless steel Fowlers Vacola. She's my big ol' girl and I love her because she holds lots of bottles. The unit is essentially a large water urn where you adjust the temperature of the water with a knob. The best thing about it is it plugs into a power point, which means I can plug it in outside to do my preserving without heating up the whole house! Believe me, the house is hot enough at that time of year. It's a simple water bath method of canning, so I can only preserve high acid fruits or pickled veggies.

I've got a few lovely Ball Mason jars, but mainly I preserve with Fowlers Vacola gear because I was lucky enough to be given most of it from my Mum, who always bottled things when we were kids. Elderly locals have also gifted me with their bottles, when they've cleared out their sheds and I've picked up a few things here and there second hand. It can be pretty expensive to buy it all if you're just starting out with nothing.




Preserving is usually a full day activity, and the more people I can drag in to help me the better. Ha! My husband would argue otherwise. He doesn't quite share my love affair with canning and while he does often help me with the preparing side it is usually begrudgingly! I'm already daydreaming of the day the kids are old enough to help.

I normally start first thing in the morning, cutting things up, scrubbing up the bottles, cooking down the sauces or whatever it is I'm processing on the day and quite often don't finish up until the afternoon. It's easy work, but it is messy and time consuming. Oh but how satisfying is it to pull those lovely bottles out of the old girl and line them up so they look all pretty? (OCD? Who me?) I just love knowing that food can be kept in the pantry for years with nothing else to be done to it.

And, while my husband might not love preserving day, he does love to pull our homemade pasta sauce off the shelf for an "instant" meal throughout the year! Yep, definitely awesome sauce.


Friday, 27 December 2013

puppet show shorts

Honest-to-goodness, I actually think this might be the sweetest little girl's shorts pattern ever. They have just the right amount of poofiness on a little behind and those little gathered pockets are the icing on the cutie-pie-top.

Anyone who's been sewing children's clothes for more than 5 minutes will know what I am talking about. The gorgeous little Puppet Show Shorts put out by ever talented Liesl Gibson at Oliver + S. Let's be honest, she had me sold on the packaging of this pattern alone. Love those paper dolls. Oh-so-much. I've made this pattern before a number of times and I will keep coming back to it as long as my little girl fits into it. Actually probably longer because the one unfortunate thing about this pattern is it measures a little small. I'm certain I'll find a way to upsize it when she grows out of it because I love it too much.

Anyway, my daughter has outgrown her old pairs so it was time for some new ones. This time I kept the fabrics super plain with some lovely cotton/linen blends. I wanted them to be plain enough to match almost any top she chooses to pair it with. Problem with that is, my daughter likes pretty things now so plain fabrics can be a bit of a hard sell. She's particularly big on flowers at the moment, so I decided to line the waistbands with some offcuts of some Japanese lawn I had lying around and some beloved Sarah Jane in the hopes they would help sweeten the deal.


She was super pleased with them when she opened up her present at Christmas time, so I'm hoping I've had a win! These were made in size 4. Fingers crossed, I've got another year or two of Puppet Show goodness still to come.


**  I received no incentives for writing this post. I just really love this pattern.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

the transformation of a garden



Anyone who knows me, might say I'm just a little bit obsessed with my garden. It's true, I do loooove my vegetable garden, but it wasn't always the pretty and productive space it is today. When we first bought our place, the space that's now the veggie garden was nothing more than head high weeds and a jungle of pumpkin and choko vines. Amazingly with some hard, sweat inducing work (and a few choice words), it was actually turned around quite quickly. My husband would also like me to add that it was mostly his hard, sweaty work that cleared those weeds. I did help. I promise, I did! I had blisters on my hands to prove it!

It took a couple of weekends to clear the weeds and vines and to flatten the area. We (OK, mostly hubby) did that with just our hands and some shovels. It's not perfectly flat, but it's not too bad.

Anyone who's built a garden will know they're not cheap when you're starting from scratch and we had a budget to stick to when starting ours. Originally we thought we'd build our raised beds out of wood, but we live in a high rainfall, subtropical region and wood tends to warp really quickly where we are. So we settled on corrugated steel beds. The cheapest we could find were the little raised beds from Aldi which we butted up next to each other to create lines and maximise our space. We filled the bottom of the beds with the topsoil we had and then brought in some loads of local organic compost to top them up with. 

As I was trying to keep costs down, almost everything in our garden was started from a few packets of seeds. My kids helped me plant everything out. It was so exciting for us all watching those gorgeous little seeds sprout to life and within 6 weeks we had something resembling a proper garden! You can get a better look at how dramatically the garden changed in the first six weeks here.

Over the next months, we had some truly sucky weather conditions (a drought period, heatwave and then 2 floods!) which made us reassess how we were gardening. The floods made us realise we had some serious drainage issues. Half the garden just washed away in the rain and to solve these problems (and when the budget allowed) we filled the rest of the space with more raised beds with some drainage pipes placed underneath. We originally mulched between the beds with woodchips salvaged off the side of the road, but the rainfall made these break down far too quickly. So just last spring we brought in some pebbles to keep the weeds at bay and so far they've been doing an amazing job! Those pebbles completely transformed the space. It's not a perfect garden, but it's mine and I love it. Hmm, I think I might have mentioned that already.



There's been a lot of trial and error with the garden. We've had some huge successes and amazing crops- more beans, eggplants, basil and peas then we could eat! But also some spectacular failures- a complete bust of a potato crop, pests obliterating crops overnight and my pesky nemesis bowerbird pinching the best strawberries (I've got my eye on him, don't you worry). It's all been a blast though and I'm a complete garden junkie now. I don't feel complete until I've had a little wander through my "supermarket" aisles to see what we can harvest for dinner! It's an ever evolving thing and I'm always planning what the next season will bring! Obsessed? OK maybe just a little

Want to see how fast my garden grew in the first 6 weeks? You'll find that HERE.

Want to see what my garden looks like right now? Click HERE.


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over for another year

Well how did that happen? Another year has practically flashed before my eyes and as I woke up this morning I couldn't believe that Christmas was over with for another year! Woah. We're just a blink away from a New Year and I'm sitting here contemplating what has come to pass and now what lies ahead. 

Every year the weeks before Christmas pass by in a flurry of making things, visiting places, finishing things up rush, rush, rush, trying to squeeze every last minute. This year was no different. 



There was the sewing frenzy! Shorts, yet more shorts, ornaments for the tree, a new Santa sack and some twirly dresses all came out of the craft room. I'll probably do another post at some point on some of the things I made and the patterns I used. The kids were excited with their new things and there has been much twirling going on around these parts!



The veggie garden has been keeping us well fed. It got a sprucing up in spring with a covering of pebbles to keep down the weeds, which has been working a treat! 

I have more eggplants and cucumbers than we can eat and giving away bagfuls to friends. The basil needs harvesting and turning into pesto. There's corn that almost needs picking and zucchinis I need to do something with!


However when the heat picked up with the start of summer, as it always does, I realised I was fighting a pointless battle. So I left it to it's own devices for the first time all year. Everything was bolting to seed just a couple of weeks after being planted, the caterpillars and pests were out of control and with the busyness of the end-of-year season, it was just all too much. So the garden's a bit neglected at the moment.

I've decided there will be no more planting until things cool down in the new year. I'll top up the beds with some manures and compost and start all over again. I think I'm starting to work out what works in our little raised beds and what doesn't. Although I'm certain some things will always keep me guessing. Ahhhh, it's all part of the fun I guess. I'm excited about what's to come. There's always so much promise at this time of year isn't there?

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