Saturday, January 30, 2010


I've been doing it a lot lately.
This post from Kathleen at Knitting Daily has helped my unknitting technique enormously, so that stitches go back on the needles oriented the right way (up until now, this was one of my greatest unknitting frustrations). And I've had so much practice on this lace piece that I've worked out how to unknit k2's and s1,k1,psso's AND tell the difference so I don't have to reorient those stitches either!

There's always a silver lining....

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bacon, potato and red capsicum frittata

This frittata is our current favourite, and we eat it at least once a month at the moment. The original inspiration for this recipe came from Meals in Minutes, which is a brilliant cookbook if you're after good, fast, easy meals. It was given to us nearly 12 years ago when we were first married, and we cooked from it at least once a week for a long time! We still use it fairly regularly, so it's definitely stood the test of time.

The original recipe was first modified when we discovered how much yummier it was if we roasted rather than steamed the potatoes. And in the last 6 months, I've substituted the spinach for capsicum and mushrooms, and replaced the cheddar cheese with feta (I use Persian feta at the moment which is unnecessarily indulgent, but yummy). The original was good (obviously, we've been eating it consistently for 12 years), but right now, I think this one's better!

The core of the dish is the potatoes, bacon and onion (and eggs, of course). Playing around with the additional veges is potentially excellent, because you might come up with other great combinations. And obviously, if you'd like to steam the potatoes rather than roasting them, that's OK too! This is the sort of recipe that you can easily extend to feed more by adding extra eggs, potatoes and veges. This version serves 2 on it's own or 3 with a side salad.

Bacon, Potato and Red Capsicum Frittata

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 middle rashers bacon, finely sliced
1 onion, finely sliced
1/2 red capsicum (pepper), chopped
3 mushrooms, chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp milk
100g feta

Toss the potato with half the oil and salt & pepper. Roast at about 200ÂșC for 30 minutes or until nicely cooked, stirring occasionally. (Or microwave for approx 5 mins until cooked through).

Heat remaining oil in a medium frypan and fry bacon and onion over medium heat for 10 minutes or until onion is really soft and bacon is just starting to colour. Add capsicum and mushroom and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add potatoes and stir to distribute everything relatively evenly. Combine eggs and milk, lightly season and pour over bacon mixture. Tilt pan until the egg is well distributed, then crumble feta over the top.
Continue cooking on the stove top for a few minutes, then place under the griller until the egg is cooked through. Serve cut into wedges.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My creative space

It's back! I really enjoy this part of the blogging week. It reminds me to continue creating, when in the past, I'd put something aside and suddenly months had gone by without doing anything! I'm looking forward to discovering where creativity takes me and everyone else who participates this year.

My physical creative space is much tidier and more organised than usual, which is a lovely way to start the year. It still needs a dramatic makeover, but it's tidy enough now that I can see where I can make improvements! It also contains some magnificent giant lilies, which smell lovely and brighten things up enormously. They probably only have a couple more days in them, but they've been wonderful while they've lasted!
My mental creative space is also enjoying the space of a whole year ahead, and is brimming with ideas and enthusiasm! I'm spending most of my available creative time working on my first-ever lace knitting project: this lovely Lily of the Valley scarf from Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush. It's a slow process, two steps forward and one step back, but I'm getting better at undoing lace, and I am actually making progress, just s-l-o-w-l-y!
I'm very much enjoying the process though. Mastering a new skill and working with some beautiful yarn (Jade Sapphire silk/cashmere - oh, so soft!) is very satisfying. And because there's a whole new year ahead of me, I feel like I have time to enjoy it!

Visit some great and inspiring creative spaces at Kootoyoo.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Knitting dreams

I seem to be a little infatuated at the moment. Maybe it's because it's summer and I've had a few weeks away from knitting. Maybe it's because after a holiday, I actually have the brain space to think about what I'd like to do with the delicious yarn my sister brought back for me from Purl Soho. But whatever it is, the interest is back! I've already amassed a rather daunting list of What I'd Like to Knit in 2010....

1. Finish Child's Cardi. I'd like to think that this one was put aside because the yarn is Aran which is far too warm to knit with in summer, rather than because I picked up way more stitches for the buttonhole band than I did for the button band and now I'm having a huff with it. Ahem. It's too close not to finish!

2. Finish hat. Well, restart (for the fourth or fifth time) then finish hat. I still really want to wear it, so I NEED TO FINISH IT!! And it probably wont take long once I get started properly!

3. Finish Lily of the Valley scarf. I only started this last week, but it's rather lovely! I'm using Jade Sapphire silk/cashmere in Japanese Maple (see pic above) and it's so nice to touch! This is one of the skeins that arrived from Purl with my sister, so I'm putting it to good use already! Sadly I need to rip it back to the start of the main pattern repeat (only about 10 rows - I'm slow at this lace business, but this is my first attempt!!), but I'm enjoying the process anyway.

4. These wrist warmers

5. A cardigan for me, possibly this pattern, but I also REALLY like this one - could I knit two in one year? Unlikely!!

6. A jumper for winter for my little one

7. Some baby/child hats for mine and gifts for others

And there's a whole stack of patterns in my Ravelry queue that I'd love to have a go at, but I haven't committed fully to any more as yet. Am I completely mad?!?

Of course, there's also my crochet list, sewing list, and other experimenty type things I have floating around my head.

I can sometimes feel so overwhelmed by the possibilities that I never start anything. So I just need to keep remembering to start things! Oh, and then finish them, of course....

Edited to add: I forgot socks! I also want to knit at least one pair of socks this year. Just confirming that I have slightly unrealistic expectations of my possible productivity....

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A skirt and a question of thread

Yesterday, this....
became this!
I finished it about 9.30 last night, after starting sewing about 8pm, so it was a super-fast project! And is #2 on my tally of finished projects for the year. It's basically a tube with a hem and some elastic*, but I didn't use a pattern and I'm pretty chuffed with how it turned out. I have definitely learnt a few things since this time last year, like pressing seams open is good, and ironing and THEN pinning things like hems and elastic casing makes things a lot easier!

The fabric was cotton (I think?) on sale from Spotlight a few months ago, about 140 cm wide (I took a long stride and measured around my legs to get the required width) and about 75 cm long. I cut it with the selvedge along the bottom because of the pattern on the fabric.

Choosing the right colour thread proved to be a challenge, because of the variety of light and dark colours in the fabric. I eventually went for a dark blue because I was machine hemming it and the bottom stripes have quite a bit of blue in them. But I'm still not convinced. How do you choose thread colour for something like this?

Even so, while it's not (at all) a tailored fit, it's lightweight and perfect for a hot day. So I declare it a success!

*I saw this idea on a blog several months ago, but I can't remember where!! I think it was based in the US and it was written by someone who seemed to really know what they were talking about in regards to sewing! Anyway, it suited my purposes on this occasion perfectly.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Moroccan style vegetable stew

We had our first reasonable harvest from the vege patch a couple of days ago. As in, more than a tiny tomato that you carefully cut in half and share as a treat!
Tonight we had a feast using homegrown eggplants, sweet long red peppers and a red onion. I added a few other things as well, but it was rather special to eat a meal made of your own produce! It was really yummy, too!

Moroccan Style Vegetable Stew
(serves 4)

1 red onion, chopped
1 large or 2 small eggplant, diced & salted for 20 mins, rinsed
1 large red capsicum or equivalent, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 heaped tsp Ras el Hanout* or other Moroccan spice mix
400g tin diced tomatoes (or equivalent fresh if you have them in the garden!)
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed
1/2 cup green olives
1/4 cup finely chopped corriander
Natural yoghurt, to serve
Cous cous, to serve

Cook onion in a large frypan with a lid until beginning to turn translucent. Add eggplant and cook for 4-5 mins. Add capsicum, garlic and spice mix and cook until spice mix is lovely and fragrant. Add tomatoes, chickpeas and about 1 cup water. Cook, covered, for about 15 mins or until eggplant is properly cooked through. If the mixture is looking dry, add some more water. Add olives, most of the corriander and check seasoning.

Serve the stew on cous cous with a generous dollop of yoghurt and sprinkle over the remaining corriander. Enjoy!
*Ian Hemphill of Herbie's Spices says that Ras el Hanout is considered to be the ultimate in spice blends, can be made up of over 20 different spices, and 'is subtly curry-like with a spicy yet floral fragrance and robust yet subtle flavour' (Spice Notes, p. 471). If you can get your hands on some, do, it's worth it!

P.S. Apparently when you're 13 months old, chickpeas are de-li-cious!

Monday, January 18, 2010

String bags

I've been crocheting string bags. It's one of those situations that you might be familiar with, when you discover a pattern that's relatively simple and quick and all of a sudden you've made multiples? This rarely happens to me, because I tend to do one thing, learn lots about how I could do it better and move on to the next thing. It's possibly because I have a short attention span, but I like to think it's because I like to try new things...?

But these string bags? They're really very simple and they also look great, so I decided they'd be great presents. They're hooked using linen yarn, which has a beautiful sheen and is really strong, so they wear really well. And if you wash them, the yarn just gets softer and softer! AND, they screw up into a nice small bundle, so you can carry them around in your handbag so you never have to use a plastic bag again! Like I said, they're great.
My mother's Christmas present was finished on Christmas night, so in typical fashion for our family, she received it with the crochet hook still attached. Oops. At least it was finished before she went home! This one is in the Sea grass colourway.
This one was started and finished while we were away after Christmas, and is officially my first finished project for 2010! This used the French Blue colourway that my sister brought back from New York for me to make her a string bag. Done.

So that's 3* string bags so far. I have one more skein of linen still to be wound, but once that's morphed into a string bag of it's own, that might be the last for a little while at least. Or until I next 'need' to order from Purl....

*My first string bag here.

Edited to add: The super-easy pattern can be found here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Super-satisfying crafty making

My birthday is so close to Christmas that I almost forget it, so I'm always impressed when someone other than family remember! One friend always remembers, and gives really fantastic presents.

This year, she gave me a broach making kit from Princess Kirsty Jane. I took the kit away with me thinking that given my (lack of) embroidery skills, it would take me a good few days of bits of time here and there. But no, it only took an evening and a little bit, AND I learnt 3 new embroidery stitches! The instructions were really straightforward and helpful, and there's space to include you're own creativity in terms of decoration if you like.

The end result was this ridiculously cute little owl. I can't add him to my 2010 tally because he was completed so quickly that I finished him before the new year, but the kit was so lovely to use that I thought I should share! She doesn't have a list of stockists on her blog, but I'm sure that if you emailed her she'd let you know how to get hold of one of her kits.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A new year!

It's been a while!

After a particularly hectic lead-up to Christmas, a few days in Sydney visiting family and friends and then a week of down time at Raymond Island, we're back, and ready to begin the new year! While the down time was more theoretical than practical (chasing a crawler around in the dirt is not exactly relaxing!), I'm feeling surprisingly refreshed and enthusiastic about the year (or at least the next few weeks) ahead.

In keeping with the theme of a new year and new beginnings, I made a few new year's resolutions (original, I know). We had to put making these on our To Do list though, as our New Year 'celebrations' were spent unpacking from one trip and packing for the next one. But we did manage to somehow find the time! Here are my crafty/bloggy resolutions:

1. Learn to spin. I'm babysitting a spinning wheel for a friend for the foreseeable future, so I figure this is the perfect opportunity to attempt to learn a new skill. I managed to find some carded fleece while away, so all I need to do now is find a willing teacher!?!

2. Complete an average of at least one project a week for 2010. One of the benefits I've found from blogging is a dramatic increase in productivity. So I figure that it shouldn't be too insane to try to capitalise on that! It may result in a whole lot of crocheted washcloths and christmas decorations (not-quite-but-very-nearly-instant gratification), but I still need more of both, so that's OK! This also gives me permission to have several projects on the go at any time, and also multiple projects of the same method (ie crochet, knitting, sewing etc)! I'm finding that when I finish one project, it takes me a while to work out what to do next, so I need more than one in progress. Or is this just a clever way of indulging excess? We will see....

3. Keep a list of all the books I read in 2010. I already do this, but if I keep a public list here, then maybe I'll read more than just crime fiction!!

I'm looking forward to this year!