Sunday, November 30, 2008

Benjamin Button-hole Maker

Yup, I should have known I couldn't puzzle you guys with that curious gizmo - my new best friend Benjamin Button-hole maker =)

I haven't used the automatic button-holer before, and the dress was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. It does look pretty tricky, but it's actually super simple. Check it out.....

Benjamin clips into the machine like any other foot:



Fit your button in the back:



Pull down the button lever:



And off you sew =)



And the machine (together with Benjamin!) does it all for you!

The instructions recommend trying it on some scrap fabric first - definitely a good idea (although it is really simple it did still take me a couple of goes to figure out what I was doing)

The trickiest thing, I thought, was remembering that you need to 'reset' the machine between button-holes by changing to a different stitch setting and then back again.

Of course, one thing your automatic button-holer won't be able to help you with is making sure that you put the buttons on the straps of your dress, and the holes on the front, as per the pattern. Ask me how I know..... ;o)

xo

Saturday, November 29, 2008

the ayes have it!

Thanks for the comments on my dressy sewing project!

The fabric is just SO cute - and it was also only about $3 a metre at the Spotties sale last week =)

The 'ayes' were overwhelmingly with the ric-rac, so I took your advice and used it around the bottom to hide the hem stitches (I'm pretty sure the photo will embiggen a bit if you click. The colours there are probably the truest I have been able to capture).

A quick poke around at Lincraft last night didn't reveal any more suitable buttons, so I decided to go with two mismatched pink ones - the yellow just didn't give enough contrast.

I'll do the last little finishing touches (tidying up the ends of thread and sewing on the buttons) today - in about a half hour we're in the car and off to Sydney for an overnighter.

Usually the three-ish hour drive would provide the perfect opportunity for some uninterrupted knitting time, but this time I am taking on my (current) arch nemesis and crafty ball and chain - the train cross stitch.
I am determined to get this fixed up and finished so I can get on with some other things - tomorrow is the first Sunday of advent so after this there are only 3 more weekends before Christmas!!!! eeeek

I'll be back tomorrow to tell you all about how that little gadget down there is my new best friend!! =)



xo

Thursday, November 27, 2008

sew dressy

A couple of weeks ago I was totally inspired by George's flashing around of her very ace sewing.

Since then I've been a bit obsessed with starting some ace sewing of my own.

Last week I went on a little road trip and took advantage of the Spotties $40 off sale for some fabric stash enhancement, and over the past few evenings I've finally had the chance to get the good scissors out and fire up the sewing machine.

Taadaa!
Well, not exactly 'taadaa', you know, since it's still buttonless.

I liked the pink flowery buttons in the shot there, but I think they're too small.
And, would you believe, out of ALL those buttons in that big jar I have I could not find a single pair of pink buttons!!!

Also, the ric-rac around the bottom in the photo isn't actually sewn on, and I think it might not get sewn on - I think maybe it would just be too much?



I'm planning to finish this baby up tomorrow evening, so we can gift it on the weekend, and I can get on to another little party dress I have in mind =)

xo

Monday, November 24, 2008

sew beary Christmassy.....

This is what I was looking for when I found my cookbook last night - my teddy bear advent calendar!

If you've been visiting since way back you might just recognise these guys as the ones responsible for keeping me sane during the three or so weeks I spent at home and off my foot after a leetle tumble I took nearly exactly two years ago.

I was pretty much done with the adventy numbers part, and since digging it out yesterday (oh, by the way, it was in the box of Christmas stuff, which was the last place I looked! Putting things away where they belong always ends in me outsmarting myself!) I've found the last number charm I needed and sewn up patchworky strips for the border.

If I'm done by Monday I'll show you what's behind door number 1! =)

ps go say hi to my friend Suzy Hausfrau - she's new to this blogging caper, but certainly a superior sewer to me, oh, and she bakes her own bread!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

stirring it up

Today is stir up Sunday, which means my Christmas baking season is officially opened - beginning (of course) with the Christmas pudding.

Over the past week or so, when we've been talking about Christmassy baking, a couple of friends have said they'd like to try making their own pudding, but have thought it was too tricky, so I thought I'd share my own pudding making adventure with you to show you just how easy it really it =)

Generally I use a recipe from Cookery the Australian Way, but I've spent the past two weeks tearing the place apart looking for my copy with zero luck (well, until this evening when I was looking for something else - isn't that always the way?!), so I dug out my Christmas foody magazines and settled on a recipe which also happens to be available online here. I'm really bummed that I couldn't find the recipe for my tried and trusted recipe, so here's REALLY hoping this one works out!

The first step is to soak your fruit - this recipe says for 6 hours, but I think the longer the better.
Also, although this recipe uses rum, you could use brandy or whatever - and if you don't want to use alcohol at all I'm pretty sure orange juice would work just fine.

So, the first step is to cream your butter and brown sugar until pale and light, than add 4 eggs, one at a time and beating well after each addition:



Next, the dry ingredients go in - that is, the flours, fresh breadcrumbs and spices. The recipe calls for nutmeg and cinnamon, I added a little bit of ground cloves too - just cos I think they're Christmassy.


Then stir in the fruit. I added some slivered almonds too, since I'm sure the recipe I usually use has almonds in it.


Now its time for the stir up.
I like to play Bob Marley for this bit - but that's completely up to you ;o)
Everyone has to have a stir - its the law (well, the tradition) - and make a wish too!


Perhaps the part that seems trickiest is the actual cooking - here's how I do it:

Prepare the pudding basin by brushing with melted butter, and lining the bottom with baking paper. It's a good idea to trace around your basin and cut your paper to size before you fill it with pudding mix!! (ask me how know!)


Instead of the 8 cup I used two smaller (4 cup) basins, since we're having two Christmas dinners and I wanted a pudding for each.
Spoon the mixture in an smooth the top, then cover with a circle of baking paper.

Next cut a square of foil and a square of baking paper each about 30cm.
Put the paper on the foil and fold twice to make a pleat. This is so that the pudding has room to expand whilst cooking. Then cover the basin with the pleated foil and paper, with the foil on the outside.
I'm sure some people have fancy kitchen type string to tie their pudding, but I have always found a bit of acrylic yarn works just as well.
I do use white though,ever since Bridget Jones turned her soup blue with kitchen string - you know, just in case.



Then just plonk your basin into a saucepan, pour in boiling water to about 3/4 of the way up the side of the basin, bring it to a simmer, and then pop on the lid.
Leave it simmering for about 4 hours, checking the pan every half hour or so, to make sure there's still enough water in there.

You can test for done-ness with a skewer like a regular cake, but I just press the top and see if it feels done, firm I guess.., then I spend the next month hoping like heck that when I turn the pudding out on Christmas day it will be right =)

Happy puddinging!! =)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

hellooo ladies!

Check out these lovely ladies, my most newest friends!


They arrived in the post last week, hot off the desk of Melbourne's own Aunty Cookie, and, once framed, will take up residence on the wall in my kitchen.

What a gorgeous pair!!!

keep your eye on the Aunty Cookie shop to snap up new friend (or two) of your own. you can get a better look at my girls there too - here and here =)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

star

Today I spent the day at home, mostly voice-less and somewhat phlegmy (don't you think phlegm's a funny word?)

Whilst it sucks to be feeling icky, it was pretty cool to look out the kitchen window as see this little bit of tropical paradise in my very own yard!

Isn't that pretty?!!!

Bells and Sean told me last week, before it flowered, what they suspected it was, but I just can't remember.

It was hard to do it justice in photographs - in real life it kind of looks like a child's whirly-toy (you know, the shiny kind on a stick you get from the show/fair tha spins in the breeze?) stuck in the garden, and really strikingly large and white.

In the second, smaller photo you can see there's a second bud on the back - perhaps even a third little one.

I think I have 2 more of these coming up nearby.

It's really cool - it kind of looks like the main plant is coming up, then the actual flower stalk comes up beside it (at least, I think)

Amazing.

Monday, November 10, 2008

not chicken soup

So, despite my desire to get a couple of housey things done (like some more potting, and finding solar-powered fairy lights for the garden room) I spent all of Saturday on the couch with some weird coldy sore-throaty thing.

I snuck into the kitchen for a minute or two to whip myself up a big bowl of my version of chicken soup, which doesn't have chicken in it at all.

Actually, you pretty much take the recipe QM shared last week, add what ever vegies you have around, some fresh ginger and chilli, a splash of soy sauce and lemon juice, bring to the boil and serve over rice noodles topped with a handfull of fresh herbs.

Oooh, it is so tasty.
Even when I'm feeling completely revoulting I very rarely loose my appetite - hmm, just lucky I guess!

Speaking of food, while I lounged with my knitting and a box of tissues the Boy fired up the BBQ and cooked up a delicious dinner of haloumi and chorizo kebabs with salad and vege.

They were sooo good - chorizo and haloumi are two of our favourite things in the world, so I'm pretty sure he thought he was dreaming when he came across the recipe online.

Anyway, I'm not sure if you can spot it in the second photo there, but the pink baby socks are coming along nicely.
I finished the first of the pair yesterday, and intend to cast on the next tonight at S'n'B (Tilley's 7pm!) =)

See you there?
xo


ok, so evidently the bug has now hit my brain, since I clicked on save now instead of publish post for this one yesterday. Excellent.

Friday, November 07, 2008

freebie pattern alert!

Kathryn Ivy is one of my fave blogs, on account of the gorgeous knits (including the cutest toys!), designs, and, ooh, the malabrigo!!

The girls have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus of late, but this morning I was excited to discover they're back, and with a free pattern to boot!

As a result of the unfortunate event of a VERY similar pattern being released (for sale!) elsewhere (by someone who had previously bought the Kathryn Ivy pattern!!), Grace and Alice are now offering their original Kiddie Cadet hat pattern for free on their website and as a Ravelry download.

Hey, it's not enabling if it's a freebie, right?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

one of these guys is not like the others

Taadaa!!

My bus sock knitting progress from the past few weeks:


I finished the rainbow sockies about a week ago, but for the weaving in (what is it with me and the weaving in, anyway?)
I won't bore you with too many stats, since I think there will be a truck load of these churned out over the coming months, but here are the basics:

Pattern: free here
Yarn: About 15g (just over half a ball) of cleckheaton merino bambino
Needles: 2.5mm
Mods: Just one thing - the pattern grafts the final 8 stitches from side-to-side, I did the grafting top-to-bottom - it just seemed to make more sense...

I've only knit one of the golden pair, but they'll be interrupted to knit up some in more traditional colours to gift =)

Oh, and, incidentally, I've just read that the one of K4C's November charities is the Preterm Infants Parents Association, so I can see myself trying out a premmie sock pattern pretty soon =)

for more info, check out the Knit4Charities yahoo group, Australian's Giving a Knit on Ravelry, or drop me a line and I'll find out what I can for you =)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"It feels like anything is now possible..."

The big question - how does Oprah feel?



Man, I'd love to be at her party tonight =)

(sorry Oprah, that freeze frame is not the most flattering, hey)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

and they're racing

For the past week (and perhaps then some) the media has been fairly well dominated by the two big races being run today - the Melbourne Cup and the US election.

As Bells was saying yesterday, since last year the first Tuesday in November has meant not only the running of the Melbourne Cup, but also a public holiday in Canberra.

Whilst lots of people are pretty upset about this, I'm quite happy to take the opportunity to throw on the pony frock and spend some time with my friends.

Like last year I packed up my pony cupcakes and spent the afternoon at J-Mo's house.

To make the chocolate ponies for on the top I used the very high tech baking-paper/freezer bag (I'm not sure that freezer paper/baking bag would work so well...)method described here, using pics from here and (I think) here as my templates.
Just quietly, I think they turned out rather smashingly!

Since I think everyone should have a pony outfit for Cup day, and since it was little Jelly Bean's first Cup day, I also did some non-cupcake pony crafting last night,
turning this:



into this:


I think I want one for myself now too ;o)

I used this applique pattern, and ironed the pony on with the help of some visoflex (is that what that iron-on stuff is called??)

So, onto that other race.
It has really had so much coverage in the media here that I can't help but be interested in the result.
As far as politicians go, I think Obama is pretty ok - I saw him on Oprah talking about his book, back in 2004 when he had just become a Senator, I think, and thought he came across as a an interesting and genuine guy.

I've read the articles about how he can't lose and articles about why he won't win.
I'll be watching the results from my desk tomorrow -
starting with news.com, The NY Times, the ABC and SBS
Does anyone have other suggestions for good/interesting/fun coverage?

In any case, it's going to be intriguing to see what happens...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

cucumber sandwich anyone?

You've probably noticed that I'll jump at any excuse to get my bake on (mmm getting bacon is also good), so I'm sure you won't be at all surprised to hear that since Bells was coming over for a pot-up today, and the new furniture needed christening, we decided to rope in some hangers-on and make a right royal high tea of it =)

Naturally there were cupcakes a la moi - my usual favourite cranberry and vanilla with fresh buttercream icing and sparkley freckle jewels on top - and we couldn't have afternoon tea without a scone or two (made with a very clever recipe which I'm sure was blogged somewhere, but i can't find right now)!

On the savoury side of things we had delicious sandwiches (a choice of egg or cucumber, of course!), yummy pea frittatas, and to die for (seriously!) corn fritters with smoked salmon on top.

Being that this week's 'this is...' theme is 'this is... a favourite recipe I'd like to share', you might just see a couple of these recipes popping up around the place =)

xo

Saturday, November 01, 2008

New month, new stuff

Would it be completely predictable of me to start my first post of the month by saying "OH MY GOODNESS!! IS IT REALLY NOVEMBER ALREADY? CAN YOU BELIEVE IT??"?
Ah, ok then, I'll skip it ;o)

We started the new month with a few 'news' of our own.

The Boy's Dad and step-Mum came over on Saturday with a dining setting for us, having bought a new one for themselves they were happy to pass on their old one:



Doesn't it look perfect in our dining room?? =)

The new furniture which arrived earlier in the week came in a package with a BBQ, which was delivered flat packed.... eeeek
I hadn't touched it all week, and wasn't looking forward to trying to assembling it - it seems everyone has a flat pack BBQ horror storie - so when the Boy's Dad offered to help him put it together I was more than happy to hand over the phillips-head and let them go for it =)

Taadaa:


Didn't they do a great job??
There weren't even any bits left over at the end!

Needless to say, we were pretty excited to BBQ up a storm at dinner time.

Mmm herb and garlic sausages and macadamia satay chicken kebabs from our local butcher - I love those guys!

The kebabs were amazing!

Bells is coming over tomorrow for some potting up in the greenhouse, so I'm leaving you with some pictures of it in its jungle-like state =)



oooh, green =)