Thursday, January 31, 2013

Back to school muffins




Wheeeeeeee! I sure am in for one heck of a busy year. I'll be juggling two jobs, as well as my duties as a wife, mother, and general all round awesome person (hee hee!). Plus there's all that crafting I'd like to do - I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I kinda like to make things. And then blog about them!Ahem.

So how to fit it all in? By starting with one of my FAVOURITE things to do: Make a list. In this case, a rather big list. Which is sorta comprised of a whole shebang of other lists.

For starters: Keep up with the monthly menu plan. Once a month I sit down with my favourite cook books and various food websites, and compose a menu plan for the entire month. People think it's crazy, but I love it. I always know what we are having for dinner, and I can really cut down on food waste by planning effectively. For example, if I know I'm using half a carton of cream in a recipe one night, I make sure that I include a recipe to use up the rest over the next few days. Or I might make up a huge batch of tomato sauce one night, some of which is used for that evenings pasta, then the next night on pizzas and the rest squirreled away in the freezer for cannelloni on the 12th. It does take me a little bit of time initially to do the menu plan, as I make a new one every month based on the seasons and what fruit and veg is available, but it saves me heaps of time on a weekly - heck, even daily - basis if I follow it properly. And it saves money as well, as we don't arrive home in a big tired heap after forgetting to do the supermarket run and resort to take-away instead. I will admit, there are nights where it doesn't all go to plan, but that's why there is always cupboard staples lurking in the pantry so I can rustle up a basic but cheap pasta if need be.

Aha! Pantry staples! That leads nicely into my next point. As part of the year of being organised/saving money/not creating waste I've decided to make Monday cooking day. Once a month I want to make my own stock, so I don't buy the stupidly expensive stuff from the store in plastic packaging. I also aim to, on a weekly basis, make up a batch of muffins or biscuits at the start of each week. I don't know about you, but life feels so much better if the biscuit tin is full! This Monday gone I made up the above Raspberry and Coconut muffins, and stashed a whole bunch in the freezer, so they can be brought out as needed for school and work lunches. Ja, ja, I am a genius! I also plan on cooking a big pot of soup up once a week in the cooler months, so the Tyger can take some to school on chilly days for her lunch, and I can gorge on it for breakfast. Seriously, if I was told by a doctor that I could only eat soup for every meal for the rest of my entire life, I wouldn't really be that upset. In fact, I might leave their office with a veritable spring in my step, such is my love for soup.

I am also sticking to my weekly schedule planner, which is written up in bright pink laminated paper, and lives next to the fridge. It details all the events in our lives, from what time piano lessons are to when I need to hand in a freelance article to reminders to hit up and bakery and buy more bread. It's sorta daggy, and unfortunately highly visible when people come over, but dang it does the job of keeping us all on track. It's also brilliant for keeping on top of school stuff for Tyger, like fitting in extra reading or knowing which day P.E is.

So that's my plan. I'm going to be highly organised, with loads of goodies stashed in the freezer, saving money and using up that craft stash. That's the aim, anyway - maybe you should check in a months time to see how well I'm faring!

What was that? You want the muffin recipe? Well, since you read all the way down here, I suppose you should have it, as a reward for lasting so long through my blather!

Raspberry and Coconut Muffins

2 cups self raising flour
3/4 cup raw caster sugar
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
125g butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, whisked lightly
300g frozen raspberries, thawed

1 - Preheat oven to 180C, and line a twelve hole muffin tray with muffin cases.
2 - Sift the flour into a bowl, then mix in the sugar and coconut. Make a well in the centre, and then add the butter, buttermilk and eggs. Stir until combined, and then add in the raspberries.

3 - Spoon into the muffin cases, then bake for 22 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: Also very, very good with frozen mixed berries.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pattern Review: Simplicity 1803 (a.k.a The Cabbage Dress!)

I know the year is still in its infancy, but I think we might already have a contender for the dress of 2013!

It has all the hallmarks of a classic Jorth favourite: pockets, interesting neckline, full gathered skirt which makes riding a bike a cinch, and most importantly of all, an amazing print. I mean, c'mon - who wouldn't love a dress decorated with CABBAGES, I ask ye?




When I pounced upon this fabric in the shop (and believe me when I say pounce - it was, quite literally, an actual pounce, accompanied by a delighted squeal), and then showed it to Galumph, he did something that only the bravest of husbands would ever do in a fabric store: he questioned my fabric choice. I believe his actual words were "Do you really want to walk around with cabbages on you?"

"You bet your bottom dollar, honey!" I replied. And I'm so glad I didn't let his concern cloud my fabric purchasing decision, because I LOVE LOVE LOVE how this dress has turned out! Don't tell anybody, but so does he now that it's made up. Besides, if Stella McCartney can make clothes with citrus fruit on it, then I figure I can go nuts (ahem) with the cabbages. And don't tell Stella, but I kinda prefer what I made, hee hee!

The fabric is a Kaffe Fassett fabric for Rowan called Cabbage and Rose, in the fuchsia colourway. It's lighter than a regular quilting fabric, and I have a feeling that the cotton may have been mercerized, as it's super soft with a slight sheen. It was simply lovely to work with.

As for the pattern, it is a beauty. My only quibble is with the amount of ease provided. I'd heard before that the Project Runway patterns had a lot of ease, and it appears to be true in this case. I made the dress up in the 8, my usual size, but it is slightly gappy around the bust. I definitely could have gone down a size. Next time I might make up a bodice muslin if I use one of the PR patterns again. But apart from that, the pattern was great. It has a bunch of different neckline options, plus two sleeve variations. I do like a pattern that can be used to make a whole variety of dresses, especially one as cute as this.

Project Details
Pattern: Simplicity 1803, view B
Fabric: 2m Kaffe Fassett for Rowan (Cabbage and Rose), purchased from GJ's Discount Fabrics
Notions: 40cm invisible zipper, bias binding

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dropping it

"C'mon Jorthy!" she told herself sternly."Feel the fear and do it anyway!"

But this was beyond your average, garden-variety of fear. This involved hours and hours and hours of knitting and - gasp! - deliberately dropped stitches. Despite the pep talk, Jorth wasn't sure she could do it. What if the whole thing unravalled and all those hours of work turned into nothing but a loopy pile of yarn on the floor? Or even worse, what if the Knits Protection people caught wind of what she was up to, and incarcerated her into the Home For People Who Perpetrate Deliberate Acts of Cruelty Unto Innocent Knits?

Not for the first time she glared at the cover of the magazine and muttered "Curse you, Vogue Knitting and your devilishly tempting knits that lead a good crafter like myself into all sorts of strife. If this fails I am going on the biggest meanest Ravelry rant ever!"

She squeezed her eyes shut tightly, bracing herself for the dropped stitch moment, and then thought better of it when she realised that that particular tactic would only end in disaster. Eyes open once more, she let off a nervous fart or two, then dropped the stitches just as the pattern instructed her to, feeling like she had been ordered to march off an alarming high cliff.




by Jiminy Cricket - it bloody well worked!

Scarf #3

Scarf #4

Project Details
Pattern: #14 - Drop Stitch Scarf from Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2012
Yarn: 4 balls of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK  in 18010 (from stash - woohoo!)
Needles: 4mm

I must say, I'm pretty happy with this fancypants scarf! And once I got over the sheer terror of it all, dropping stitches was FUN!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pink Drape Drape 2 dress

Remember this little number?

Drape Drape 2 #2

Well, I have lived in it! It is one seriously comfy dress - so much so that I decided that I needed another for this summer. In hot pink, natch!

Pink Drape Drape

Once you get the hang of tracing out the pattern for this dress, it is no brainer sewing at it's best. This one I made from a super light jersey, and it is perfect for those 40C plus days, especially when your brain has melted from the heat, and the whole vexed question of what-to-wear is simply too taxing to contemplate. Drape Drape is the answer!

Project Details
Dress #2 from Drape Drape 2
Fabric: 1.5m of cotton jersey from Rathdowne Fabrics

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

White ruffle skirt

Ruffle Skirt

What do you get if you mix a birthday part invitation with a quick jaunt down to GJ's? A super sweeeeet white ruffle skirt, if you please!

I whipped this up (seriously - an hour of sewing and it was donzo!) this afternoon after Tyger and I decided that we'd rather make her friend a gift than buy one. Since I'd already made a version of this skirt for the Tyger last year, the sewing was easy. I didn't even read the instructions, just jumped right on in. Love an easy sewing project!

It's a bit hard to tell from the pic, but each section of the skirt is made from a different white fabric, and each has it's own unique texture, which I really like. I was hoping to find a white Broderie Anglaise with a scalloped edging so that I could thread a fine pink ribbon through to use as the bottom tier, but I was plum out of luck. I'll just have to remember that idea for next time!

Project Details
Pattern: Cocos ruffle skirt #15 from Ottobre Design Magazine 1/2011
Fabric: Three different white cotton fabrics from GJ's Discount Fabrics
Notions: 54cm of 20mm wide elastic for waistband

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pattern Review: McCall's 6320 (aka The Green Dress)

Green Dress #1

Green Dress #2

Finally - finally! - I managed to snare the Galumph and get him to take some pics of me in my green dress. It's only been finished since mid-December, and here we are mid-January. In a brand new year. Yikes!

Still, better late than never. I used McCall's 6320, view B. As far a patterns go, this was a pretty easy dress to sew up, but as far as projects go it was a bit of a palaver. Firstly I couldn't find any lining anywhere to match the fabric. Green is always hard to get a good match with at the best of times, but after visiting 4 different fabric stores this began to be a bit of a joke! In the end I settled for a light avocado rayon lining, and resolved that if anybody had the nerve to point out the lining didn't match the dress then I would answer with supreme disdain "Dude - design feature. It's meant to look like that. Scoff!"

Thankfully this so far hasn't occurred. I'm AWESOME with the dripping disdain in the privacy of my own loungeroom, but not so flash with it in real life.

I also had a wee bit of trouble getting a zipper to match. The pattern called for a regular zipper, but I decided to throw caution to the wind and go the invisible. Which thankfully turned out to actually be invisible, so you can't tell that it, too, is a weird avocado colour. I just need to make sure I don't wave my arms in the air a lot and reveal the mismatching pull tab. That's a challenge for an arm-waver like me, but if I just keep my hands in my pockets then I shouldn't run into too much trouble!

Oooooh! That's another thing - I love the pockets! As you can probably tell by the pics. I did try and find an image of me without my hands in them, but alas, no cigar. I love the shape the pleats/pocket combination gives to the skirt. It gives the illusion of a smaller waist and hides the tummy flab. Win win!

This pattern gives you the different bust size options, which is great if your figure isn't standard (and let's face it, whose is? I'm usually an 8 in the bust, a 14(!!!) in the waist and a 10 in the hips. Go figure!) All in all, it's one heck of a cute dress, in possibly one of the best colours around. I wear mine during the day, but I could see it being ahhhmazing made up in a gold brocade or a deep red duchess satin as a sassy little cocktail number. Ack - so many sewing possibilities, so little time!

Project Details
Pattern: McCall's 6320, made up in size 8
Fabric: 1.6m Donna Karan stretch cotton from The Fabric Store, plus 0.80m rayon lining for bodice
Notions: 35cm invisible zipper

Friday, January 11, 2013

2013: The Year of the...?

Teal Scarf

The bookies stood rubbing their hands together, certain that their bank balances would soon be boosted, with the odds in their favour. They stood around in small, shady groups, eavesdropping on the punters who were reassuring each other with confident phrases such as "It's a sure bet, my good lad!" and "Trust me, dear chap - you've never seen better odds than these!"

The gambling public happily plonked down their money, choosing not to see the pitying gaze of the bookie as he wrote out the betting slips for each sucker, then huddled around the intercom to await the announcement. Would Jorth declare 2013 to be the Year for World Peace (clocking in nicely at 10 to 1)? Or would it perhaps be the International Year of Telling Bad Jokes (a slim chance at 25-1, but imagine the riches on a $10,000 bet!) Most were betting that she would go for that old reliable favourite, the International Year for Children, Safe Water, Literacy and Driving On The Right Side of the Road. Hedging one's bets had driven this one right up to the top of the list, at odds of 2 to 1.

The intercom suddenly crackled into life. The crowd hushed, and more than one neck was craned towards the speaker, awaiting the announcement that would surely lead them to sudden riches. The bookies stood by, wearing their impassive faces, when the words filled the room: Jorth announced 2013 to be The Year of the...

A brief silence. What the heck was going on? Didn't the speaker have it written down, for land's sake? The suspense! Oh, the suspense!

The intercom came back to life. The speaker cleared his throat and began again: 2013 will be The Year of the Stash!

"Gah!" said the crowd collectively, tearing up their betting stubs in a fit of pique, before heading out the door to drown their sorrows at the local down the road. The bookies started to wipe their chalk odds off their slate boards, and began speculating amongst themselves which project Jorth would begin first. Being gambling men, they simple couldn't help themselves. Would it be knitting or sewing? 50/50 on that! Maybe she'll use that fabric she bought 3 summers ago - I'd say the odds on that would be 13 - 1. "What about that teal Debbie Bliss Cashmerino yarn, purchased about 6 years ago, made up in that Drop Stitch Scarf from Vogue Knitting?" asked a young bookie who was still learning the ropes.

The older bookies guffawed at this. "Cashmerino? In the height of summer? Blimmin heck kid - I'll give you odds of 1 million to one on that bet!"

It's certainly a pity the young bookie didn't take his superior up on the bet, for he was a honest, decent lad who was obviously in the wrong profession. Honest, decent, and unfortunately for him and his scruples, now $1,000,000 less well off.

And Jorth's stash was currently depleted by 3 balls of teal Debbie Bliss Cashmerino. Hello, 2013!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Slow summer days


I'm trying so hard not to rush this summer away. People (husband, brother, even the damn piano teacher) are always telling me: slow down, girl! what's the rush?

As for that, I have no answer. What can I say - I'm a girl on the move, for what that's worth. Bouncing from one to the next, never satisfied unless another 8 projects are lined up, and then usually overwhelmed which does nothing productive but inevitably results in an increase in speed. Watch out world - Jorth is coming and she can't slow down! Who gave her a license? (nobody, thank heavens. Imagine me on the road? Shudder) When God was handing out life philosophies, he definitely grabbed one from the ant basket for me. No singing the summer away like the slothful grasshopper for me. Heck, one might enjoy themselves that way. Must. Go. On. Always. Full. Speed!

Except for this summer. A nasty bug that hit over Christmas and has lingered, casting both a pall over new year and the gift of an prescription script has meant a lot less zooming by yours truly. And loathe as I am to admit to myself, I'm actually enjoying it. Sleeping in past eight, and dribbling on the pillow. Spending a whole splendid afternoon doing nothing but knitting on the couch. Sprawling on the bed in the heat creeping in from the bedroom window despite the drawn blind, and lazily devouring a book. Heck, I'm even savouring the cracked heels and chipped sparkly nail polish from too many hours in the local pool doing the slowest breaststroke laps you ever will see.

Besides, it won't be long before Grumbles will be spending her summers hanging out with friends, leaving her poor old mum behind in her own speedy dust. I've gotta make the most of this time while I still can because one day she won't want to spend a summer with me playing Lego Friends, ramming tokens into the Connect Four set, making pancakes on the weekend morns. I've gotta grab this summer with both hands, and enjoy it. Slowly and deliberately.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Start as you mean to go on


2013 is going to be, I suspect, a very busy year for me. I have big plans, people, big plans! And an integral part of those plans is related to crafting.

So that is why on the 1st of January I could be found perched on the couch, happily casting on for a new knitting project. Because I'm a big believer in starting as you mean to go on. And besides, who could resist ringing in the new year with some lucious cashmerino yarn? Not this little black duck!

Besides the non-stop-crafting-juggernaut I also want to:
- eat more fruit (I say this every year but this time I mean it, nagdammit!)
- read more books (I used to read like I was breathing - effortlessly, without even thinking about it, and feeling rather panicked if no new reading material materialised - what happened to that?)
- get up earlier and breathe in that glorious morning air
- take more pictures, laugh at more jokes, and enjoy the little moments as they come, rather than always rushing toward the next thing.
- Er, I should probably practice my piano more, too. Two years of learning, and my pièce de résistance is the Tarantella? Surely I can do better than that!