Saturday, October 31, 2009

I made it!

It is done. One post per day for the 31 days of October. Wow!

While there have been days when it's been quite difficult to come up with something, I've found it far easier than I anticipated. Being fairly new to this blogging thing (and having a dreadful track record when it comes to keeping paper journals), I really wasn't sure that I'd succeed without veering too much into drivel land (that might be today's job). But I've been pretty happy with the posts I've done, and I think the content has been fairly close to what I anticipated this blog would be about (crafting, cooking, gardening, living, and occasionally parenting). Daily posting this month has helped consolidate for me what this blog is about.

I've enjoyed the challenge of producing something each day. This is probably the first daily non-parenting related thing that I've committed to since becoming a mum, and it's nice to discover that I can maintain a commitment, even if it is only for 5 minutes some days!

I've also enjoyed finding new (to me) blogs, though I haven't got anywhere near halfway through all the people who signed up, so I expect I'll find even more to add to my reader as I continue through the list!

One of the biggest drawbacks of Blogtoberfest for me has been an inability to keep up with my reader - I currently have over 250 posts to catch up on, so I'm hoping that once everyone stops blogging daily it will be easier to maintain!!

Thanks Cathy for a challenging and fun month. I think I will try to maintain regular posting as it helps me feel like I'm achieving something, but 3-4 times a week rather than daily (phew, I hear you say). I'm taking the day off tomorrow!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hot and not...

Today I'm joining in with Loobylu for what's hot and what's not...

What's Hot:
* Picking up the new Mike's Book Club book from the library. I'm looking forward to reading this one, though I'm hoping it's not toooo sad because I've developed a problem with watery eyes since having a baby!! I can't start it yet though - I need to finish my current read first, the particularly highbrow O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton (fun though!)
* Finding yet another use for my very funky knitting needle stoppers. I just realised I needed 2 extra stitch holders for this project, so a pair of dpn's with stoppers on each end are functioning nicely as a temporary fix!
* A baby discovering the joys of crawling. It's particularly entertaining to watch her discover her expanding sphere of influence at the moment!
* Making it to the second-last day of Blogtoberfest without missing a post so far - exciting for me, possibly tedious for everyone else ;-)

What's Not:
*Hems. How is it that I can successfully negotiate buttonholes (after a few false starts) but be undone by a hem?
*A baby discovering the joys of crawling. It means a serious re-evaluation of the state of our house. Bookshelves everywhere are not such a wonderful thing from this new perspective!
*Teething. Not fun for anyone in the house, especially at 4am.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

my creative space

It's growing! Surprisingly quickly, really.
I've used my fandangled new stitch holders, and I'm about to embark on some 'short rows'. Just slightly scary as I've never done them before. But if I can do them here, that's another reason to start knitting socks, as short rows seem to play a big part in heel flaps. Can't start socks until I've finished the jacket though!

I'm quite enjoying this project! And because I'm the beginner knitter, the pattern corrections are coming through from other, more competent knitters before I get to those bits! I figure I'm testing the pattern to see if it really is possible for an 'advanced beginner' :-)

To see more creative spaces, visit the queen of the quilt project (which was amazing by the way, I'm so glad I got to see it in person!).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Flower hack

I have several flowers blooming in my garden at the moment, with very little the result of my work - some of it even in spite of it!

A few weeks ago I hacked back the rose bushes, to the point where I was questioning the likelihood of their survival.
They HAVE survived, and one of them is already rewarding me with lots of pink blooms!

I think these are pelargoniums (like geraniums but with serrated edged leaves). I've done nothing to it and it's completely covered with large enthusiastic flowers!

And finally, here are my petunias, actually potted by me! Also blooming with gusto, in spite of my inability to remember to water them.

It seems to be gardening day in blogland - Nic has some lovely geraniums to show you!

Three more days till the end of Blogtoberfest!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Word of wisdom for the day

Don't hammer when cranky.
There's an old, decrepit, non-functioning gate in our side fence that until a few weeks ago hadn't been opened for years. There was a large rock placed in front of it by a previous occupant to stop it being accidently opened. However, apparently when you're a nincompoop with a few too many muscles, you can force it open, effectively removing the bottom plank from the rest of the gate. Grrr. Someone used it again today while I was out, leaving it wide open. So, I decided to fix it. Sadly, my incompetent hammering abilities are unlikely to stand up to over-muscled nincompoops, but hopefully it will hold up until tomorrow when my dad arrives for a week. He's good at fixing things....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Special Delivery

When the AUD hit 0.92US, I decided it was necessary to take advantage of it and go yarn shopping. (Though it just keeps getting better. Maybe I should go shopping again?) Excitingly, my box of yarn all the way from America arrived this morning! Here's what I got....
...a skein of kettle dyed fingering yarn (looks like 4 ply?) in Chilli Pepper. Maybe a shawl? It's very soft and the colour is striking, and I've never knitted a shawl before...

....2 skeins of Spud & Chloe Outer - possibly earmarked for child hats, it's so lovely and soft!....

and 5 skeins of Cascade 220 in Mallard. It's so very pretty and not expensive at all, so I got enough to make a decent sized child's jumper or something.

I love yarn. I'm trying very hard to not buy any just because. It needs to have a possible project in mind to be able to justify a purchase. Only, I have so many possible projects in my head at the moment, that I could probably nearly fill the house and feel justified! Maybe I need to come up with some other criteria....

Sunday, October 25, 2009

spaghetti with smoked trout, fennel and tomato

When we were at the Melbourne Show this year, we managed to sign up for BeerMasons, which is kind of like a wine club for fancy schmancy beer. It's rather fun - you get tasting notes for each of the beers in each pack, and it includes food matching suggestions. One of the beers in the first pack we received is matched with smoked meats. Mmmm. This is a passion we share with one of our cats (who stalks anything smoked: smoked cheese, smoked fish, smoked meats. Slightly annoying when you're not paying attention...).

Anyway, we decided that smoked trout was to get pride of place the other night, but needed to be a little creative. My smoked trout salad has preserved lemon as a key ingredient, but we've run out and I haven't made any more just yet! So I did an experiment that turned out rather well! It's a very quick pasta dish that is perfect for warm spring evenings. The beer was pretty good too!
Spaghetti with Smoked Trout, Fennel and Tomato
(serves 2-4)
approx 100g spaghetti per person
1 fennel bulb
juice of 1 lemon
glug of good extra virgin olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
2 fillets or one whole smoked trout
1 tomato, diced
1/4 cup parsley leaves

Cook the spaghetti according to instructions. Meanwhile, slice fennel very thinly (I use a mandoline type thingy), and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside. Break trout into chunks, trying to remove as many bones as possible. Once spaghetti is cooked, return to saucepan with fennel, trout, tomato and parsley. Toss, adding more olive oil, salt and pepper if required. Serve!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another note to self...

Retractable tape measure + coffee = non-retractable tape measure.

Friday, October 23, 2009

One whole string bag

Finished!! I seem to be saying that more often these days!

Here are the details:
Pattern: free from The Purl Bee, here
Yarn: Louet Euroflax linen in Burgundy

The yarn was surprisingly nice to work with. I still managed to put the hook through the strand occasionally, but I suspect it's as much me as my tools! I also have a decent amount left over. The pattern is made up of chains and sc (or dc if you want to translate it to Australian), so is really simple, especially if you can count. I also LOVED using this hook. It has a flat, thick handle which makes it really comfortable to use - I don't have any 3.25mm grooves in my fingers which is nice!

I really enjoyed making it, and I like the finished product, too (always a good thing). It's also HUGE - it looks small, but when I put a lemon in it, you should have seen it stretch! So it should fit a decent amount of shopping in it.

It could be a really good Christmas present option, but I need to work out if the people I might give it to will actually appreciate it....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My creative space

It is begun!
I've started working on the cardi pattern test that I signed up for in a less than lucid moment a few weeks ago. And I've (kind of) successfully negotiated the first 'huh?' instruction! So what if I made 11 when I was only supposed to make 10? I fixed it by purling 2 together on the next row. Possibly slightly dodgy but effective.

I'm also liking this knitting on circular needles business. It's very hard to lose a knitting needle when they're attached to each other!

My biggest worry so far is my colour choice. It's a little sleep inducing, so I hope I don't get so thoroughly bored with it that I never finish it!

Visit Kootoyoo for lots of interesting creating....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

temporary custody

A few weeks ago, a friend turned up on the doorstep with a large suitcase. She wasn't moving in, but bringing the contents to live at our place for an unspecified time. I had already been warned, so I knew what to expect when I opened it up. Yarn. Unsurprisingly I was looking forward to it. But, even knowing what to expect, it was very exciting seeing inside!
It had been collected over a few years while my friend was living in the UK. There's lots of Rowan aran weight, some Alice Starmore Pure Shetland 2ply in lots of different autumny colours, some lovely purple Rowan DK, a skein of apricot single ply (possibly heavy worsted weight?) and several other goodies! And part of the custody agreement is that I can use whatever I want while it lives here. How good is that!?!

I've already used some to knit owl broaches, and I have plans for some brown Rowan aran weight that might end up fitting a small child, but other than that, I still have lots of yarn to allocate to potential projects! Any suggestions will be enthusiastically considered :-)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pancetta and tomato pasta

Just for something different, here is a recipe. If you read between the lines, it's because I'm stuck for ideas, again!! But it's a yummy one....

This is another one of our regular standby favourites. It's based on a recipe I found in Good Taste not long after we got married, which was several years ago now, so we obviously like it. A lot!
Pancetta and tomato pasta
(serves 2-3)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
100g pancetta, diced
1 generous clove garlic, crushed
fresh chilli, to taste (I generally use 1/4 tsp - I'm a bit of a heat wuss)
1 400g tin tomatoes (I get the diced kind)
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper
pasta shapes of your choice

Heat olive oil in a frypan, add onion and cook until translucent. Add pancetta, fry for a minute or so, then add garlic and chilli. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring, then add tomatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 mins.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to packet directions.

When sauce has thickened slightly, remove from heat and add most of the parmesan, and season. Add cooked pasta and stir until well covered in sauce. Serve with remaining parmesan sprinkled on top.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My place and yours: On the shelf

We're games people in our house. Not that we've played much recently - a new baby in the house complicated things for a while, and we've gotten out of the habit.

This is where we currently store our preferred games, under the coffee table. Though they won't be staying there for long - the little one is nearly crawling and games have lots of little bits!

We need to start playing games again, I think!

To join in Pip's new meme, or just to check it out, visit here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


brightening up my kitchen.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm going to do it!

Since I received the pattern last week for the child's cardigan I signed up to do a test knit for, I've flip flopped erratically between jumping in feet first and giving up now before my significant fears that it's way too hard are proven to be correct.

But I've finally committed to a decision. I went to the wool shop on Thursday and bought the two circular needles, two sets of dpns and the two stitch holders that I need. Yes, two of each. I told you it was hard and scary and....

I think I just need to get on with it ;-)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mmmm, butter

You know how every so often you have an idea that you cannot believe you didn't come up with it earlier? Well I had one of those a couple of months ago.

I like to imagine that I'm pretty environmentally aware for the average person*. I use modern cloth nappies. I've always been committed to recycling as much as possible. While I still have too many clothes, I tend to wear things until they're really dead (which makes the whole refashion from my own wardrobe thing a bit complicated). I try to buy things that have a lower environmental impact than some of the alternatives, in terms of processing and packaging. I've boycotted Nestle since first year uni (which has it's challenges - they keep buying brands without me realising, grrr). But there's still a whole lot of room for overhaul, as I am regularly discovering!

Like butter. Until recently, we used an olive oil based margarine for all of our spreading requirements. Then I had an epiphany. Marg comes in plastic tubs that I assume can be recycled, whereas butter is wrapped in a small piece of greaseproof paper. Which I assume is also recyclable. So aside from the recent research suggesting that butter is not as evil as we'd been led to believe (and marg is far more so), it's a much better choice from a packaging perspective.

Implementing the change was easy. I toddled off to the local homewares shop and bought a mini casserole dish for $5 which seemed far more suitable than the official, much larger and much more expensive butter dish. It doesn't fit the whole block, but that's a good thing around here because we're notorious toast crumb leavers! This way it gets cleaned out regularly ;-)
Mmmm, butter.

*I'm in the process of re-evaluating this self-perception in light of the genuine low impact live-ers floating around blogland.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My creative space

Today I'm rediscovering that I'm very skilled at avoidance.
I'm up to the button holes. They're really scary!! I'm pretty sure that once I do it, I'll wonder what I was fussing about (like with most things), but right now I'm still in the midst of the avoidance phase. I think I'll go and buy some more knitting needles instead....

For some productive (rather than stalled) creativity, visit Kirsty.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cookie Chookies

I was very excited to discover a parcel in my letterbox this morning! It contained some Chook trim and some Nesting yardage from the very talented Auntie Cookie.

After coming up with the perfect project for the chook trim, I realised I didn't have enough in the sample I picked up at the Quilt & Craft Fair a while ago, so I was very pleased that Shannon still had some left! I don't have anything specific in mind for the yardage at this point, but I'm sure it will get used before too long.

I love chooks. Sigh.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


When my sister-in-law and her husband were staying with us last week, I let them earn their keep by being yarn holders for me while I wound my skein of linen (yes, I'm a cruel host). So I've started my string bag!

I've had a few driveway sessions over the last few days (while madame sleeps in the car), so I'm probably about half way! The pattern is exceedingly simple and because it has big holes, it feels really quick to make progress. I'm also using a Soft Touch hook for the first time - it's marvelous!!
If we manage to fit in many more driveway sessions over the next few days, I might be finished it by the end of the week, which would make it a miraculously speedy project for me. I can always dream!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Note to self...

Sewing machine works better when bobbin is inserted correctly. Just in case you were wondering....

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pancetta and white bean pasta

Interestingly, when I'm stuck for something to post, I resort to food. Maybe I'm obsessed?

This recipe came from my sister a few years ago, who I think got it from Donna Hay. I have no idea how closely this resembles the original, but it's really, really yummy! When I cooked it the other night, I included a (very small) handful of peas, because we had some in the garden. It was good enough to possibly become a long term modification!

Pancetta and White Bean Pasta
(serves 2 - 3, but can easily be doubled)

200g pasta (we use hats* (orecchiette) or shells)
1 tbsp olive oil
100g pancetta, diced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp chopped fresh chilli, or to taste
1 400g tin cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
a handful of fresh or frozen peas
salt, pepper & good olive oil
parmesan cheese, to serve

Cook pasta in lightly salted boiling water for the time suggested on the packet. The sauce takes less than 5 mins so get the pasta cooking while your preparing the other ingredients!

In a large frypan, fry pancetta in olive oil over medium heat for a minute or so. Add garlic, rosemary, zest, & chilli and cook until fragrant (about a minute). Add beans and peas (if using) and cook, stirring until beans are heated through. Add lemon juice, season and remove from heat. Add cooked pasta to pan with a couple of glugs of good olive oil and stir to combine.

Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

*Note: apparently orecchiette are so named because they resemble little ears. I think they look much more like little tin hats, so that's what I call them.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Online Quilt Festival!

This morning I came across the Blogger's Quilt Festival via Cheryl at Naptime Quilter. 'Oh goody!', I thought to myself, 'Another post for Blogtoberfest!'

I decided to enter myself into the novice quilter category (if this category doesn't already exist, it should, even if I'm the only entrant!!).

NOTE: if you think you've seen this quilt before, you have, here. I'm squeezing it for all it's worth!

This is my first ever attempt at machine patchwork/quilting. It's a Moda Chocolat charm pack, with a couple of pieces of yardage for the borders. I quilted it very simply myself, and hand stitched the binding. The finished size is about 84 x 105cm (33 x 41.5 inches).

I sewed all the squares together around Christmas 2007, finally adding the borders and completing it about 2 months ago!
If you'd like to see more quilts entered into the festival, you'll find them here. I'm yet to have a proper look, but I suspect there'll be some pretty impressive entrants!

Friday, October 9, 2009

A conundrum....

Today I'm hoping to catch up on reading some of the blogs I've been neglecting for the past couple of days, and DO SOME SEWING!! We've had family staying with us for the past few nights who don't know about my blogging habit, so I've been sneaking in quick blog updates for Blogtoberfest when they've been distracted!

Homebaked bread. Completely unrelated, but I can't bring myself to have a picture free post! I did make it a couple of days ago, and managed to remember to take a picture before it was all gone! It was yummy, too :-)

It raises an interesting conundrum about the congruence (or lack of) in having a significant area of your life that is not known by (most of) the people that you're close to in person, if you know what I mean. It kind of feels a bit like keeping a big secret, without really having a good reason for doing so. Part of me is worried that they'll think I'm weird (hang on, they know that already ;-)), or maybe I'm worried that people I know wont like the stuff I'm making/doing? I don't know! At the moment it's still kind of a secret. Mostly.

What about you? Does the world know about your blogging habit? Why or why not? I'd love to know :-)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

my creative space...

...has returned to what passes as equilibrium again.

It's back! And sewing nicely :-)
Now I have no excuse not to get on with the eleventy trillion projects I have planned....

Lots of interesting and impressive things to see over at Kootoyoo.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

cabbage with bacon and apple

Due to too much blog visiting and not enough crafting, I present to you another recipe....! This recipe is great for using up cabbage that appears in your weekly seasonal box, or in your vege patch. We tend to eat it with pork sausages. A couple of months ago I went into the butcher asking for sausages that would go well with a cabbagy bacony appley thing and got a rather strange look, because he was a bit confused about why the vegetable was my starting point rather than the meat. At least the sausages I ended up with were tasty!

Cabbage with bacon and apple
(serves 2-3 as a side that's really the main event)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 rashers bacon, thinly sliced
1 apple, peeled & sliced
1/4 cabbage, finely sliced
1 tbsp red wine vinegar, or to taste
2 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
1/4 cup rouchly chopped parsley

Gently fry the onion and bacon together over medium heat in a large frypan that has a lid, until the onion has softened.

Add the apple and cook until starting to soften.
Add the cabbage and toss about so that the onion mixture is vaguely stirred through. Put the lid on and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, for a couple of minutes or until the cabbage is no longer raw. You want it to still have a bit of crunch.
The problem with taking photos of your dinner is that it's dark. It looks better than this in real life!!!
Remove from the heat, stir through remaining ingredients and serve!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

lovely linen...

This lovely, textured, exciting yarn is linen, and is destined to become this string bag. Who could resist?
P.S. I think Blogtoberfest is going to stretch me a little. Today's only day 6 and I'm feeling like the ideas bucket is less full than I thought. Just warning you. Hope it doesn't get too dreary!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Flower snow

This is my favourite tree in our garden. I think it's an ornamental cherry. It's just outside our bedroom window, and has lovely big leaves in summer that turn wonderful shades of red and yellow and orange in Autumn. It also has lovely bark so even in winter it's kind of pretty!

Yes, that's an open car door. Finding things to do while sleeping beauty does her thing...
At this time of year, it has glorious, fragrant blossoms everywhere...
which before too long will become a lovely petal carpet on the grass below.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stash building...

I was lucky enough to win a Sew Mama Sew voucher during hand sewing month, and my selection arrived in the last week!
The green is earmarked for some bag trimming (I think I might have caught the bag making bug...), and I think the yellow will end up as something small and girly. I had been contemplating using the blue to trim some Raglan Guld pants, but I didn't get enough and now I've seen it in person I'm not sure it would have worked! Maybe I could use the big florally butterfly print instead, or maybe the motifs are a bit big? Oh well, dreaming is fun... ;-)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

unexpected success!

Broken sewing machine + knitting needle stoppers = very cute little broach :-)

Pattern from here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Polenta with mushrooms and goats cheese

Tinniegirl's topic for Blogtoberfest today is 'These are a few of your favourite things'. So it's fitting for me to post a recipe. I like food. A lot. And I like recipe books. A LOT! Cooking is something I really enjoy, and I find it a good way of taking time out, especially if there's other people around to help me enjoy the end product.

Before my little one was born, my husband and I used to share cooking duties fairly evenly, but since she was about three months old I've been doing the vast majority. By request!! At the end of a full day of parenting, I get to cook while he does the evening parenting stuff. I think we're both happy with that!

A couple of nights ago, I did an experiment involving mushrooms and polenta, and we both declared it a success! So here's the recipe...

Apologies for the night-time photo!

Polenta with Mushrooms and Goats cheese
Serves 2-3

3 large pieces dried porcini mushroom
3 cups mixed mushrooms, sliced (I used a combination of field & swiss brown, flats and buttons)
1 tbsp each olive oil & butter
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt & pepper
150g goats cheese (at least 50g per person - I like LOTS)

1 cup chicken stock
1 cup polenta
3/4 cup grated parmesan
50g butter

Soak the porcini mushrooms in about 1/2 cup boiling water for at least 10 mins. Chop rehydrated porcini mushrooms finely and reserve soaking water.

Add 2 cups water to the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Add polenta slowly and whisk until the liquid comes back to the boil. Keep whisking often while cooking to get rid of lumps and stop it sticking. Once cooked (about 15 mins, depending on the type of polenta you use), remove from heat & stir in cheese and butter, and season.


Heat butter & oil together in a large frypan that has a lid. Add garlic & porcini mushrooms and fry gently until garlic is translucent. Add mixed mushrooms and cook, stirring, until most of them change texture (about 5 mins). Add the thyme and reserved porcini water, stir and simmer, covered for 3-5 mins. Remove lid, season and allow to continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 2 mins).

To serve, spoon polenta into flat bowls, top with mushrooms and scatter with crumbled goats cheese. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My creative space

Apparently today is Thursday. For some reason it's Monday in my head, so I was a bit surprised to see My Creative Space popping up around blogland today!

My creative space has hit a bit of a speed bump today. My sewing machine has decided that enough is enough and it WILL NOT WORK UNTIL IT'S HAD A SERVICE!!!! So after having a mild huffy fit because I want to get sewing on my pinny, I've been knitting instead. Hurrumph.
Last time I was at the yarn shop, I discovered these very funky little stopper thingies to put on the end of your DPN's (probably so that your socks don't fall off). I figure it means I can use my DPN's as normal knitting needles. And then I can use another one as a cable needle!

Go and visit Kirsty to see many creative spaces!