Wednesday, August 31, 2011

All about Harry

Harry #1

Harry #2

Books like this make me want to (a) own a cute dog who can do flip-flop tricks! (b) live in a perfect French village where there are striped awnings adorning every window, fruit stalls on the streets, and tiny cafes where it is de rigeur for ladies to wear a hat and a suit to dine; (c) have a bath. Man, do I miss having a bath in the house (I do take a shower every day. Sometimes two. Shhh! Don't tell the water police, I'm under 155 a day, I swear!)

But the best part about a book like this is reliving the joys of it again with Grumbles. On the outside I may be patiently correcting her misread words, but on the inside I am doing a shared-book-love happy happy dance!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No Coco Pops for this lass

Asparagus #1

Asparagus #2

"I've figured it out!" announced Jorth happily to Galumph. "I have cracked the nut! Solved the dastardly problem! Sorted out the quandary! Used my grey matter to fathom, to discern, to comprehend a solution!"

Galumph looked up from his book on Jørgen Jørgensen. "My darling wife", he said. "What on earth are you talking about?"

Jorth gave him the kind of look that husbands all around the world are familiar with: the look that plainly says "Where have you been? Why aren't you telepathically keeping up?" and answered "Protein, my love. Protein!"

Galumph put down his book with an inward sigh. He knew from long experience that if he didn't give her his full attention right then and there he would get no peace, so gently said "Illuminate me, dear, for I am still none the wiser."

Jorth grinned at him with affection, and said "I've figured out that if I incorporate protein into my breakfast each day, then my energy levels are far better! I can hold out for lunch for much longer, and I don't sink into a heap at 5 o'clock. Just think of all the delicious proteiney things I can eat for breakfast - asparagus and eggs, bean stew, braised lentils on toast, chickpea soups.... oh yeah, I can totally rock some soup for brekkie!" With that she bounded off to find a notepad to jot down some breakfast ideas, and Galumph deemed it safe to delve once more back into his copy of The English Dane.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Teddy Bear Tape Measure


Teddy Bear Tape Measure #2

Surely I am not alone here in thinking that this would have to be the cutest tape measure EVER!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Red to pink (er, no surprises there!)

Jorth was rather pleased with herself, and rightly so. For she had just finished the knitting part of Grumble's red dress. The knitting of the collar had taken much longer than she thought it would. There had been an odd flaw in the yarn - one of the plys had unravelled. When Jorth discovered this she decided that it was no big deal, and that it would be hidden in the knitting, and had ribbed on.

But alas! The more Jorth knitted, the more the ply worked itself free from the main body of knitting. It sat there, cheekily waving itself about, like a spectator at a football game with a ludicrously large flag. Jorth tried hard to ignore it, but with a sigh realised that the darn thing would bug her forever if she left it there. Jorth was loath to frog all of her hard work, but she knew that if she was to be free of the flaw then she would need to rip.

So rip back she did, and then cut out the flawed section of yarn, wove in her ends and recommenced knitting. And now she was finished, and the collar looked perfect. Jorth was very pleased with her knitting maturity - once upon a time, when she was younger and rushed things more she would have left it there, but now she knew that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing properly - even if ripping is involved.

Jorth put the completed piece into her knitting bag and beamed. A celebration of some sort of definitely in order. Perhaps a cup of tea and a rock cake? Nah, she'd already eaten far too many of those. It was too early for a glass of champas - plus it was a school night. Suddenly, inspiration struck. She rushed to her yarn stash, and pulled out a bag of Rowan Summer Tweed she had been saving (half price on eBay - hoorah!). Grabbing her 4.5mm needles she cast on 17 stitches of the gorgeous silk/cotton blend, and began merrily to knit Harmony from Nectar by Kim Hargreaves.

(Bwahahah! What can I say - I really know how to party!)

Harmony Begun

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Spring fever


I always say that autumn is my favourite season, but gee whiz, spring isn't too far behind!

I'm meant to be working on my book today, but instead of being stuck in front of a computer screen I'd much rather be outside, lying under a blossom tree, enjoying the sun on my skin and feeling the wind tickle my toes.

Still, these darn character studies won't write themselves, eh? (tears herself away from window and slumps back down in front of the computer)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rock cakes to the rescue!

Rock Cakes #1

In her never ending search for healthy, filling, yet fun lunch box snacks, Jorth found herself once again perusing recipe sites on the internet. The edicts were few but essential: it had to be nut-free, easy to make and containing no exotic ingredients. And to be honest, Jorth was getting desperate. Although Grumbles wasn't a complainer by nature, she was beginning to heave rather large sighs when confronted with carrot sticks as her play time snack again. Jorth needed something new and exciting to vanquish the carrot sticks blues, and she needed it now!

After what felt like endless recipe clicks she stumbled across a recipe for rock cakes. Now, Jorth had never actually made a rock cake before, but just the very name seemed to conjure up Enid Blyton-esque picnics in warm summer air, roaring fires with port, and Hagrid, all in one cornucopian melding. She clicked on the recipe, and was delighted to see that the list of ingredients was pretty much contained in her pantry at that very moment.

"These look good!", thought Jorth, and pausing only to wrap an apron over herself hastened into the kitchen.

A short while later the rock cakes sat cooling on the wire rack. Jorth made a cup of tea, and tried one. "Ooooooh!', she exclaimed through a mouthful of crumbs. "These ARE good!"

Before you know it, there was suddenly two more conspicuous holes on the wire rack where a couple of rock cakes used to be. Jorth, with a slightly guilty air, rearranged the remaining cakes, hoping nobody would notice how many she had gobbled, and let out a small, satisfied burp.

Rock Cakes #2

I used this recipe, with a few minor tweaks: I added some grated orange peel to the mixture, and pre-soaked my sultanas and apricots. These are very, very tasty!

Monday, August 22, 2011

View from a bike path

Bike Ride #1

Bike Ride #2

Bike Ride #3

Bike Ride #4

Bike Ride #5

Bike Ride #6

Bike Ride #7

Really, it's the only way to travel!

Bike paths traversed: Outer Circle Trail, Gardiners Creek Trail and Yarra Trail.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Jorth: 1, Seagulls: 0

Bike Basket

Q: What has two legs, two wheels and a big daft grin on her face?
A: Me, on my family bike ride this Sunday!

We had a family meeting last night, and it was laid down that nobody was allowed to be sick this weekend. Sniffs, snuffles, sneezes and any other ailments beginning with 'sn' are completely and utterly banned. It's going to be sunny and 19 C on Sunday, and I am determined to be cycling around it it, breathing in great big lungfuls of scented spring air, and generally succumbing to spring fever. And we're going to have a picnic!

Previously we used to buy some sausages, and find some of those free bbqs scattered around town, and descend with delight to have a sausage-in-bread-with-tomato-sauce lunch. But those pesky free bbqs take forever to heat up, and when they do it's a kind of lukewarm heat, just enough to bring the snags to room temp. It was a sad sight, my friends, the three of us huddled around the bbq plates, begging the thing to cook our lunch as a small crowd of animals gathered, quite confident that our snags would never be cooked through, and we would hurl the sausages to them in disgust. Yup, those knowledgeable seagulls had seen it all before.

Now, if there's one thing I hate, it's being outsmarted by a seagull. So in my bike's wicker basket there shall be chargrilled veggie and camembert baguettes, a roasted pumpkin and chickpea salad and cupcakes for afters. Hmmm - I'd better ride extra kilometres to work all that off!

Hope you have a great weekend wherever you are, full of sunshine and cupcakes! I'm super excited about mine. I might even break out a summer dress, despite the risk of scaring innocent passersby with my blindingly white legs. If anybody complains then I'll just offer them a cupcake. Cupcakes make everything better, according to Grumbles, and I must say I'm in full agreement.

Oh dear, I've begun to ramble. Must.Get.Off.Computer. Have a fun weekend!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

almost finished : presque fini

Needles And Yarn

Le dos, le devant et les deux manches sont fini!

The back, the front and the two sleeves of Grumble's red wool dress are finished! Now all I have left to do is 46cm of ribbing for le col (the collar). What fun!

We have fallen into a sweet gentle routine here each evening. After dinner, Galumph and Grumbles head off into the bedroom, and lie on the bed reading Harry Potter out loud. I sit on the couch and knit, listening to the story telling. It feels so timeless - almost like I have stepped back into Jane Austen's time. There is no blaring tv or radio competing for our attention, just a girl snuggled into her Dad as he guides her into her imagination, and me peacefully knitting away, just happy to be near them.

Sometimes Grumbles will dart out into the living area, and give me an update: 'Did you hear that, Mum? Hagrid's going to Azkaban! That's AWFUL!' before ducking back into the bedroom to find out what happens next.

I am loving these moments so much. It feels like this is how raising her should be. And when the Harry Potter series is over, I think we should keep the nightly reading going for as long as we can. I'm eyeing off my bookshelves now... we've got Winnie The Pooh, heaps of Roald Dahl (she adored The Twits!), Neil Gaiman, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madeline L'Engle, The Penderwicks plus the entire Anne of Green Gables series.

If you have any other recommendations I'd love to hear them! For books, that is... I have enough knitting patterns to sink a ship!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Curses! I thought I had escaped the winter bugs.


I thought seriously of visiting the doctor today, for when I woke up this morning I discovered that my neck glands felt like they had grown to become the size of golf balls, my throat feels like it is on fire and my nose is dripping like a tap with a broken washer.

But then I remembered that it would cost me $60 for the privilege of hearing that I've got a viral infection so the best thing I can do is rest and keep up the fluids. Bugger that for a bunch of bananas!

So, instead, I have decided to be my own doctor today. I'm prescribing a day on the couch, with plenty of knitting, endless cups of tea and fizzy water, and some French knitting translation if I feel up to it. The thought of a peaceful day knitting is making me feel better already!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The White Wedding Dress


Saturday found us rugged up to the nines (it gets cold up in the country, you know!) and driving up the highway to the fine and handsome town of Bendigo. The reason for our visit? To check out The White Wedding Dress exhibition that was being shown at the Bendigo Art Gallery.

If you have any interest in social or textile history then get your behind up to Bendigo and check it out! The wedding dresses, from the V&A Museum, span two hundred years, and countless social upheavals. Each dress reveals clues about the person who wore it: their social standing, their financial position, yet you can still see their own personal taste shining through the conventions of the day.

I found the entire exhibition fascinating, and could have stayed all day, drooling over the incredibly well preserved dresses. Alas, no cameras were allowed, so I can't show you any of the dresses here. I did make sure I bought the book, which is turning out to be an excellent read.

The craftsmanship that went into the making of the garments is worth the trip alone. The laces and hand beading are so fine and perfectly executed, both on the older dresses and the newer ones on display, like the J'Aton Couture, Gwendolynn Burkin and Toni Maticevski gowns. You can even check out the dresses worn by Dita Von Teese and Gwen Stefani on their wedding days (former: lush purple silk Vivienne Westwood, latter: John Galliano spray painted silk). No offense girls, but I still think my green silk dress wins, hands down!

Next year they are hosting a Grace Kelly exhibition. Wheeee! I'll be back!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pink top + red skirt = pure awesomeness!

As you can see, doing a toile was a sterling idea!

RedSkirt #1

RedSkirt #2

This is the best skirt I have ever made! Ok, ok, so I have a long history of skirt disasters, but the tide has turned, my friends. It's toileing for skirts from now on, now I know how successful the results will be.

Things I like about this outfit: it's pink! and red! together! Just the very thought of my new pink top and skirt is guaranteed to put a daft happy grin on my face.

I'm also quite a fan of the origami-style folds in the skirt, which was quite easy to do. I adore clothes with quirky details like that. In fact, give me a fold, a pleat, a drape in a strange spot and I'm a happy girl.

Project Details
Pattern: Skirt #113 from Burda Style Magazine 11/2010
Fabric: 1m of cotton/linen blend from Tessuti Fabrics
Notions: 20cm invisible zip

The top pattern is the Ottobre Design Creative Workshop: Women's Best Tops

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

To toile or not to toile?


Jorth was in an extraordinarily indecisive mood. On the one hand she really wanted to immediately start cutting out her red fabric to make a skirt, using the Burda magazine pattern she had just traced. But on the other hand she always had trouble getting skirts to fit well, and there was an annoying little voice in her head that kept insisting she make a toile.

Jorth knew that making a toile was the sensible course of action, but man! Toiles were so boring! They were like the court shoes of sewing: dull, practical and guaranteed to not cause you any trouble. Jorth glanced out the window, and sighed at the grey leaden skies. On such a dull day she wanted excitement, she wanted to be rash and reckless... but she also didn't want to ruin her fabric.

Suddenly Jorth was struck with a sterling idea: she could consult her Magic 8 ball! She rummaged in the cupboard until she found it, and then breathlessly asked "O Magic 8 ball, should I make a toile?" She shook the ball, and was dismayed to find the answer was "Yes".

"Maybe", thought Jorth, "it doesn't work anymore. It is pretty old after all. Perhaps I'll ask it another question: O Magic 8 ball, should I do more piano practice?" Once again the answer was "Yes", leaving Jorth to conclude that the ball probably wasn't broken after all, as she was in dire need of more piano practice.

"What now?" thought Jorth. Then she remembered her bag of runes. Although she hadn't even touched them since high school she was sure that the Germanic alphabet, used by many to cast divinations, would be able to provide her with an answer.

With a trembling hand she carefully drew the first rune she touched out of the bag. It was the Nauthiz rune, which signified need, delays and restriction. "Oh that's just great", thought Jorth. "So this means that I need to do a toile, otherwise the darn skirt won't work, and I'll be delayed in wearing it, and it'll probably end up too tight, hence the restriction. Fabulous!"

Jorth wasn't about to give up so easily, though. Murmuring to herself "third time's the charm!" she rummaged in her spice draw until she found a bag of dried rosemary.  Jorth knew that the ancient Greeks and Romans had burnt this herb to offer prophecies. Putting some on a place, she carefully set a lit match to it, and anxiously watched the smoke that rose. Unfortunately for Jorth, the smoke rose steadily, floated in the air and then formed the following message: Make a toile, you idiot.

"Fine!", yelled Jorth as the smoke alarm went off. "I'll make the darn toile!" After turning off the alarm she found her roll of calico, and started cutting the toile out, wondering as she did so if any other sewers made up toiles first for potentially tricky garments, or if they just sewed on the fly like she had been tempted to do.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Pink and red

Pink Top

Rolanda, in life, had been a colour trend forecaster, and a rather good one at that despite her brusque personality. In the afterlife, however, she was just another ghost. The thing that she missed most about being alive was not, as you may suppose, her family and friends. She was now free to pop on in and see how they were anytime she fancied (not that she often did - she found them even more boring in death that she had in life). No, the thing that Rolanda really missed was colour. In the afterlife she was surrounded by nothing but a dull sort of grey transparency. The ghost buildings were a see-through grey, the other ghosts were a see-through grey - even the ghost mountains, if you squinted hard enough, could be seen through, and were - you guessed it - grey.

One morning Rolanda flitted along the streets, and thought about visiting her mother, but decided that she couldn't bear to find her mother prostrate once again in front of the macabre Rolanda shrine she had set up in her lounge room. The thing that really got up Rolanda's nose was the constant wailing of "Rolanda, my sweet girl!" that her mother did, as Rolanda was quite certain that her mother hadn't found her at all sweet, or even likable in real life. She had just decided that she would hang out at the city cemetery and yell out "Boo!" at unsuspecting mourners when a movement in a window caught her eye.

Rolanda entered the room with no qualms (even in life she hadn't been exactly known for her manners) and watched as Jorth rummaged in her wardrobe, looking for something to go with the new bright pink top she had made. Rolanda watched with increasing frustration as Jorth tried it against this skirt, or that pair of pants with no success. Roland finally burst out "For heaven's sake, girl - it's right in front of you. Pair it with the red necklace! My sainted aunt, do I have to do it for you?"

No sooner than those words been uttered that Rolanda found self zooming uncontrollably into Jorth's body. "Right!", thought Rolanda, ever the organiser. "Now I'm in here I'll show her how to do it!" After a couple of wobbly tries she managed to make Jorth lay the top on the bed, then she grabbed the red coral necklace from the open jewellery box and placed it on the top. She then found a nice piece of red fabric, and arranged it below the top like a skirt.

Suddenly tired out by the exertion it required to inhabit a humans body, Rolanda wished herself free and floated over to sit down on the bed and watch Jorth's face. Jorth touched her fingers to her forehead and muttered "Wow... I felt really weird for a moment there." She reached over to the glass of water on her bedside table and took a long drink. She felt much better after that, and wondered idly what had come over her.

Jorth then let her gaze fall on the outfit on the bed. "Strange..." she thought. "I don't remember putting those there." She stood and looked at it for a while, and then said "Red and pink... that's actually not a bad combo... maybe I could make this fabric into a skirt, it'll look awesome with the pink top. There is, after all, that Burda magazine skirt I wanted to make. Yep, that will do the trick. Man, I'm a sartorial genius!"

Rolanda rolled her eyes, and said out loud in a very sarcastic voice "Well, my work here is done", and left via the wall to find some more mischief to do. Jorth looked around the room, and even though she knew perfectly well that she was alone had the very odd feeling that she was being laughed at. She shook off the feeling, and bent down to the cupboard to get out her sewing machine. Now inspiration had struck, she had sewing to do.

Project Details
Pattern: Ottobre Design Creative Workshop: Women's Best Tops
Size: 34

This is going to be my go-to t-shirt pattern from now on, for the good reason that it's absolutely perfect! Great fit, with just the right amount of ease. You can choose from three neckline options (round, scoop or v) and three sleeve options (sleeveless, short or long). I'm so happy I bought this pattern, as I'm pretty sure I'll be using it to make tops for the rest of my days.

I'll show you a fuller picture in the next few days when I finish the skirt to go with it!

The necklace I made a few years ago using coral beads from Boutique Beads. I love me a good statement necklace.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Sweets for my sweet

Chocolate Mousse

Come around to ours tonight - it's the Galumph's birthday, and we're having chocolate mousse for dessert! Well, you might - I've licked so many bowls and spoons making it that I am officially moussed-out. Urp.

Goodness knows what the dentist is going to say when I rock up this afternoon with my manky chocolate mousse breath. And my too-much-rich-food tummy ache. Oh well - happy birthday Galumph!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Red yarn and phlegm

Red Knitting

(In scary ghostly voice) Welcome, dear friends, to the House of Sickness. Come in, if you dare, and you shall see the Galumph, hiding away in the bedroom with a heat pack pressed to his head, nursing a vicious inner ear infection. Behold the agony on his face!

In the lounge you shall find Grumbles, taking her third day off school this week, desolately coughing up more phlegm with her hacking cough. But the horrors do not stop there - she will often trot over to her mother, opening up the tissue she has just expectorated into and state in a fascinated voice "Look! This one's really green!" Avert your eyes if you must!

The lady of the house is hiding away, desperately trying not to pick up any of their germs, and mainlining orange juice to boost her immune system. On the plus side, she is getting a lot of knitting done. On the down side she is sleeping very little as every cough uttered by Grumbles in the middle of the night requires her to peek into her room to check on her offspring. The bags under Jorth's eyes may well be the scariest thing in the house. Wooooooooooo!

(Reverting back to normal voice) Erm, ok, hope you all have a lovely weekend, and that your place stays sick-free. Also that you don't end up with CABIN FEVER LIKE ME. ARGGHHHH!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Sew With A Plan

Wheeeeeee! Thanks for letting me have a little peep in your craniums about your sewing plans or not, as the case may be. So glad I'm not the only who sews on a whim. This year I am really going to try and Sew With A Plan (or SWAP, as they call it) but you can be assured when the right pattern or fabric comes along all my good intentions will be thrown out the window as I race to whip up something completely unexpected.

Not that I'm allowed to buy any more fabrics or patterns. Uh huh. No siree. Wouldn't even think of it.

Still, that's not stopping me from thinking about the needs of Grumbles. It's not my fault that there is not a single, solitary fabric in my stash that is suitable for her (just humour me here!) We spent a pleasurable few hours last week figuring out what she needs for this summer. I think we've come up with a great mix of practical yet fun outfits. And besides, isn't half the fun the dreaming about it?

Sewing Grumbles

Clockwise from top left: Ruffle Skirt #15 1/2001, Floral Dress #26 3/2001Pinafore #10 2/2005, T-shirt #29 and Skirt #30 3/2009, Sailor Dress #28 3/2001. All designs from Ottobre Design Magazine. The best part about Ottobre Design Magazine is that you can order every single back issue from their website. Love that!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Sewing question for my fellow sewing peeps


I'm sitting here today, enjoying this marvellous sunshine. 20 C today! In August! And I'm feeling pretty good about my decision to quickly wrap up my winter sewing and make a start on my summer sewing. There's even a little voice in my head saying "Winter coat, schminter coat. Leave that till next year, sister!"

But then I remembered the weather report I read in The Age yesterday that warned us Melbournians that we should enjoy the sunshine while it lasts, because it's going to be cold and wintry once more by the weekend, and staying that way for some time to come. That annoying little voice piped up once more: "Er, changed your mind. Make the winter coat - you'll be needing it!"

So that leads to my question: how do all you fellow seamstresses plan your sewing? Do you get a jump start on the season ahead of time (i.e. start making all your summer clothes before winter has truly ended, thus ensuring that you have something amazing to wear when the weather turns) or do you just sew things as you fancy it? I'd love to hear what you do - this curious mind wants to know!

For the record I'm going to stick with my plan of wrapping up the winter sewing and begin my summer sewing right away. I did some wardrobe planning with Grumbles the other day, and boy oh boy does she have some garment requirements (some very necessary, like new shorts and t-shirts because her others were rather, um, small by the end of last summer... so small it was almost indecent!) and some not so necessary (can you make me this dress? and this one? and that one too?!). Plus I have that shameful stash of my own that needs to be worked through (ahem!)

So I'm planning to get a crack on, and have plenty of things to wear when summer truly arrives. What will you be doing?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Plant a tree

National Tree Day 2011 #1

National Tree Day 2011 #2

We don't have a garden. Sob! We do have a balcony, but it's in a tricky spot - half the year it gets no sun at all, and drying clothes on it is a major challenge, and the other half of the year it gets too much, and what few pots we have been brave enough to put out invariably get fried in the relentless Australian summer heat. It's a bit sad, because I would really, really love a patch of ground to call my own.

So you can bet when Planet Ark put out their yearly plea for volunteers to come and help plant trees on National Tree Day, I am first in line. Sunday morning was spent squatting on the cold, muddy ground, dodging the bits of flying dirt and stones being flicked from shovels, wedging trees in to tiny filled in holes, hoping nobody noticed how many root systems Grumbles was managing to tear, wearing manky gloves that may have contained spider webs and then eating a thank-you gift of a really burnt sausage. It was AWESOME!