Monthly Archives: April 2014

Banana Blondies with Caramel Bits

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Hello! I’ve been doing some experimental baking. That’s fast becoming one of my favourite hobbies. I’ll be honest, it kind of makes me feel like a scientist. I love brownie but I felt like mixing it up. I wanted to try those new caramel bits that Nestle has put out. So this is what I made. Its not quite blondie, not quite cake but its extremely delicious. If you’re much of a brownie blondie fan, you’ll know that there are kind of two camps that recipes and fans fall into: gooey brownies and cakey brownies. I myself love a really chewey but not too moist brownie. I feel like this banana blondie is smack-bang in the middle. Its pretty good! So I’ll share my recipe. I plan to keep experimenting and one-day present the perfect blondie. This is OK by me in the mean-time!

Re the caramel chips, I enjoyed using them (they smell amazing!) but the end result wasn’t quite caramely enough for me to justify spending that much again. Next time I might use regular ol’ chips, but if you want to try them, go forth!

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Happy Spaces v.6

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Knitting from Elise Blaha Cripe (top) and Ann-Marie Espinoza. Elise’s blanket is the original inspiration for my knitting bug.

Happy Saturday (and long weekend if you’re in my neck of the woods). I’ve had an odd couple of weeks. Due to Easter and ANZAC day, I’ve had lots of time off work. I had grand plans to be super productive lady and get stuff done! And then I got sick. Why does that happen? So, I didn’t get to be super productive lady. I did clean out my pantry and fridge and move 500 photos off my phone and do a tiny bit of sewing. Hopefully I will make a fast recovery and get to do some more sewing this weekend. Here are some things from the interwebs I’d like to share.

– We’ll start things off right with this Chocolate Caramel Brownie. Two words: Jersey Caramels. Get out of town! This is THE brownie. I’m hanging out to make this.

– You’re probably getting sick of my stamping obsession but look! Polka-dotted lunch bag. This is the cutest project.

Here Kitty, Kitty. I mean here, on Smile and Wave. I made this cute project last weekend. I really liked using yarn for the face.

– Speaking of sewing, I’ve been writing about my sewing adventures. Read my first post on tools and my latest post on my favourite projects.

– I’ve been enjoying Ann-Marie’s blog lately. She shared this quote which really speaks to me. I spend too much time waiting, waiting. She has also been sharing her adventures with yarn which is right up my alley at the moment.

– I’ve decided to learn how to knit. Check out my inspiration on Pinterest. More to come.

– This Cauliflower and Brown Rice Gratin looks delish! Winter is on its way and I’m craving hearty meals like this.

– Lastly, I’ve been devouring Nadia Lim’s new book, Good Food Cook Book. Its so good. Last night I made a satay pumpkin soup that was so delicious I don’t think I’ll ever make ordinary pumpkin soup again.

Have a great weekend!! I plan to spend Saturday baking up a brownie flavoured storm and playing with yarn.

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Sewing: From One Beginner to the Next – Part Two, Projects

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Some small part of me is thinking about the fact that I’m just about to show the world my sewing and some well-meaning person is probably going to point out that I’ve spent a year doing everything massively wrong. But then I look at the things I photographed. The tangible things that I put together, somewhat roughly, with my own hands. And I don’t really care. Go forth, well-meaning person. Give it your best shot. I’m quite chuffed to be writing this post.

There are lots of ways to start a learning a new skill, just as there are LOTS of different things to sew. I was always put off sewing because I thought it meant big scary patterns and darts and zippers. When me and Row got our own place I went into crazy nesting mode. I wanted to decorate everything. (Side note: a year and half later, not much decorating has been done. It takes time).  And so, I fell in love with DIY and making stuff and that led to sewing. Consequently, everything I have made thus far is home decor stuff (bar a few tote bags). I found a way for me to love sewing. Now I can’t wait to sink my teeth into something more gritty and take on those scary patterns and sew some clothes. Sew your own way. If you want to start with a skirt, do that. This is how I found my love of sewing.

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My favourite projects so far have been hand-sewn cushions (pillows), machine-sewn envelope cushion covers, bunting and tote bags. Here are my favourite tutorials, blogs and books for inspiration and projects.

http://kawasakisports.in:80/91815-ciplox-ear-drops-price.html Tutorials coach http://www.conference.iabl.org/61994-differin-prescription.html (google searching for something specific)

Bunting. This is the bunting tutorial I used. I found it easy to make the triangles and tricky to sew them into the binding. I bought my bias tape off Etsy. Make sure you iron the triangles before you sew everything together. There are lots of tutorials for bunting but I really liked the end result of this one. Its whimsical.

Totes! This is a super simple tutorial for the absolute beginner or anyone who wants a quick project. I don’t think I made it in 20 minutes but it is easily completed in an afternoon. Note that this isn’t a very ‘fancy’ tote – its not lined and has not fastenings or pockets.

Envelope cushion cover. Another really simple, yet effective tutorial.

Napkins. I haven’t made these yet, but it looks like a great tutorial.

Blind ladder stitch. I found this really helpful for learning how to do the stitch to close up cushions neatly by hand.

Google and Pinterest are great for finding something and there’s about a million tutes on everything. Search away!

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assign http://forestinventory.no/32644-methocarbamol-price.html Blogs recruit http://www.SOSPACE.CO/63631-yaz-uk.html

A Beautiful Mess. I’m a bit two-minded about this blog. I really like the style of some of their projects. I love my finished sun cushion and fox cushion. In saying that, I found them quite tricky. A lot of projects don’t have patterns so you have to free-hand them yourself. They are doable, but for a beginner, somewhat tedious! If you are willing to persevere then check them out. I think they are starting to add patterns. I’m going to make this purse tomorrow and it has a pattern, so hopefully I won’t have to throw my sewing across the room! :D

Smile and Wave. OK, Rachel just had the cutest baby, so its worth going there just to look at him. Babies aside, I really enjoyed making my kitty pillow from this blog and she seems to know her stuff!

The Crafted Life. I haven’t yet made anything from this blog (and most of the things I want to make aren’t strictly sewing crafts) but there’s lots of fun ideas here.

Frankie Magazine. Again, not one I’ve actually sewn anything from but Frankie often shares good lookin’ tutes.

Mollie Makes. Lots of projects this way.

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assist http://hrfornurseries.co.uk/89415-i-pill-tablet-price.html Books 

Look at books way down the bottom here. I should be ashamed. Books are an interesting thing. I’ve only made a couple of things from books. But I do borrow A LOT of craft and sewing books. I find books really useful for inspiration and ideas. Sometimes the projects are too tricky or not exactly what I want to make. If you’re starting out sewing do check out the library to give you an idea of just how the vast the range of sewing options are. Books are probably quite good (and magazines, like Burda) if you’re wanting to make clothes.

I really like Pip Lincoln’s books and if you can find it, this funny little book, Make Me I’m Yours…Pillows. I also like Queen of Crafts and Chic on a shoestring : simple to sew vintage-style accessories. Here are some books that are on my wish list Sew Retro, Stitch by Stitch, Sew and Stitch Embroidery.

A Few Tid-Bits 

If you want to learn embroidery, I recommend Heleen Webb’s kits. There are also lots of kits on Etsy.

Please share your favourite books, blogs and tutorials, in the comments.

See my post on the sewing tools I use. Next week I’m going to share the sewing tips I have picked up so far.

I’m a beginner too! And I’m 100% self-taught – that is I haven’t been to a single sewing class. I think its totally possible to teach yourself to sew. At some point in the future I’d like to take a class so I can refine my skills. Sewing is what you make it, for me, its fun. I hope some of my suggestions here are helpful. Happy sewing!

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White Chocolate and Cranberry Oat Cookies

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Cookies! I love the texture of these not-too-rich cookies. Great for lunch boxes and afternoon tea, plus, they’re super speedy to make.

Sewing: From One Beginner to the Next – Part One, Tools

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One of the things I love about cooking is using my hands to make something. I love that headspace. I love spending an hour totally immersed in something creative. That is also what I love about sewing. I have been sewing for a little over a year, when last January I decided I would learn to sew. Sewing, like a lot of things, is not something you can become great at quickly. One year later and my stitches still look wonky. Some projects still frustrate me. I’m yet to venture into the realm of clothing. I haven’t sewn a zip (yet!). But the great thing about sewing, and lots of things, is that being great or even good, has no bearing on actually doing it. I can sew. I can sit at a sewing machine and make a cute fox pillow. I can make bunting. I can make tote bags. They’re even usable! By this logic, anyone can sew something. It also means that you can start and slowly get better. I remember the absolute glee I felt the first time I finished a project. I MADE THAT. I still get that every time I finish something. I think that’s almost my favourite part of sewing. That is also what’s drives me to persevere when I get lost. And to keep making. Now I’m kind of addicted.

I’m going to write three posts about my sewing adventures thus far. I’m just a beginner but I’ve learnt some stuff! If you’re just starting out, I hope this will be useful to you. Today I’m going to write about the tools I use, one year on. What you must have, what I borrow, what I use every time I sew. I’l also talk about the mish-mash of buttons, thread and material that I’ve ended up with. Next week I’ll write about the projects that I’ve made, my favourite blogs and books. I’ll finish with some tips I’ve picked up along the way. 

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Essential

  1. Sewing machine. I guess that ones a no-brainer, though I have made a couple of really fun projects completely by hand. The point I want to make here is that I feel in no way ready to buy I sewing machine. I have a hard enough time choosing material. If you want to take up sewing, I encourage you to try and borrow one. I borrow mums, we each have it for a few weeks at a time. If you can’t borrow one, have a look to see if there is a night class you could go to to use one. Alternatively, look into buying a second-hand one. Sewing machines aren’t cheap and I don’t advise shelling out lots of money if you’ve never sewn before. You might realise sewing isn’t for you. Plus, there are a lot of variations with sewing machines so you will want a vague idea of what suits you, before you buy.
  2. A really good pair of scissors. You will use them every time you sew and they are worth the investment.
  3. An iron. Hit one of the Briscoes sales. I paid about $30 for mine. It doesn’t need to be fancy. I also don’t have an ironing board. I use my bench and a thick towel. An Iron is must if you don’t want a wrinkly project.
  4. Straight pins. Also essential. Non-expensive.
  5. A measuring tape. As above.
  6. Assorted needles, if you think you are going to dabble in hand-sewing. One of those cheap little sets with different sizes will see you through until you learn what you use the most.
    1. Makes Life Easier

      1. A fabric pen, or chalk. I didn’t buy this until I got to a project that had no pattern and I had to free-hand draw a pattern onto my fabric. Since then I’ve used it quite a bit and its handy to have.
      2. Seam Ripper. You can get by without one of these and its not important to buy straight away but there will come a time when you’ll need to be ripping some seams! Sadface. Its a fact of sewing life.
      3. A printer, or access to one. Not essential, but if use the internet for sewing tutorials you will, at some point, want to print off a pattern.
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          Materials

          There are different ways to do things and my way is not necessarily right, but being budget conscious, I only buy what a project calls for. That’s how I sew. I find a project that I like, I buy the fabric (unless I already have something suitable from a previous project, or some old clothing that will work) and anything else it needs and then I make the project. Because of this I’ve slowly grown a stash of odds and ends. I imagine that soon, I will get to a point where I can make something, just from the stash. You could go out and buy a whole array of pretty fabric (its tempting) but I find this to be the most economical way. I usually round-up when buying fabric. If a project is quite small, I’ll buy half a metre, or a metre of fabric.

          I also apply this logic to thread. Dark, and white thread I use a lot, so it’s probably wise to buy  them up front, but other colours, I only buy as and when I need them. Its unlikely that you will use all of your thread for one project so you can build up a stash of these too.

          Other things I have ended up with are double sided bias binding, button eyes and noses, embroidery thread, iron-on fusible tape, buttons and beads and lots of other tid-bits. Its hard to buy just enough for one project sometimes, but I quite like my odds and ends!

          If you want to start sewing, my advice is this: ask around to see if you can borrow a sewing machine, or pick a project to sew by hand. Go to the library and find a book with some simple projects or look online. If you borrow a sewing machine you can probably also borrow scissors and other small tools, otherwise things like tape and pins aren’t very expensive. Write down your materials list exactly and head to your nearest craft store. Have fun picking out your fabric, making sure you get the right amount and appropriate style for your project. Then just start! You won’t look back. If you get stuck or fed up go and make a hot drink and get some space. You’ll figure it out. Next week – my favourite projects to date. Happy sewing!

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On Kitchen Experimentation

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I just ate the nose off my Easter bunny (chocolate of course) as I’m basking in the start of a 5 day work holiday. Its pretty good. I think I’ll eat the whole bunny. I love having a chunk of time to get stuck into Easter bunny’s big projects. This weekend I’m determined to learn how to knit. I also plan on spending several hours in my kitchen. I like my kitchen. Its pretty retro and I think retro has something going for it. Bar the oven that is a bit hit and miss, I love the lavish bench space, numerous cupboards and enormous sink. Getting to the point, one of my favourite things to do in said kitchen, is experiment. If I put this in here, surely it will taste good won’t explode be the star of my next post. Sometimes it works (and that is the BEST) and sometimes is doesn’t. It literally flops. Or it just tastes less than exciting. Regardless of the result, I always learn something new about the science of baking, or flavour combinations or my own creative abilities.

I love recipes. I’m kind of a recipe book junkie. They clutter up every available surface. I love just exploring the endless possibilities of food. I love coming across that winning recipe that makes you go ‘I’m going to make THAT’. I love finding a really good recipe book that has been well thought out (and test driven). I could pour over beautiful food photography for hours.

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Growing a love of experimentation

An interesting thing happens when you’re dirt poor and love food. You learn the art of improvising. ‘Well, I can’t afford X so I’ll use Y’. Y, is often times, just as good as X. Over time you learn what works, what makes a good substitute, what parts of a recipe are interchangeable.  And learning those things is thrilling, because that is the basis of becoming a good cook. This blog has pushed me, more than anything else, to try new things. To branch out. To take a wild stab in the dark nether regions of my pantry. There’s nothing quite like making a recipe that turns out good, or even better, actually resembles the glossy picture. It makes me beam. But what really gets me going is making something where there is no glossy picture to reference, there’s just an idea floating around in my head and that idea coming to fruition, and actually being not just edible but good – I promise you, nothing is more satisfying.

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From recipe to experimentation 

I think there is five step process to experimentation. It starts with a recipe and ends with throwing a whole bunch of things together and praying and watching as it miraculously changes into something  that hopefully resembles dinner.

I think my best experimentations have developed from my love of recipes. Finding a good recipe and adapting it to suit the available ingredients is something I would now call a habit. The opposite of this is not being able to find a recipe and so, out of share desperation to make the thing that you know must surely be a thing, simply throwing caution to the wind and putting the apron on.

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A recipe for experimentation