Monthly Archives: May 2014

Eat Your Freezer

DSC_0070About a week ago, when popping a bag of peas back in the freezer I stopped and stared at all of the stuff. What was in my freezer? I decided it was about time I found out. I don’t have a big freezer, just a fridge freezer combo. I also don’t actively stock my freezer (due to the size). I have fond memories of mums chest freezer. It was like a treasure chest. There was always one more container of frozen strawberries (from PYO in the summer) or other berries from their garden and it usually took a good five minutes of rummaging to find them, but they were there. It turns out my freezer is mostly full of pumpkin soup, which is slightly less exciting. Here’s what I found.

– My freezer is a pretty random concoction of stuff. Peas, spinach, buns and about five small containers of leftover soup. Also, some beef mince, pork mince and sausages (not surprising that they got relegated to the freezer because veg is just too good!).

– Before you put anything in the freezer write a date and description on the container. Don’t fall into the trap of ‘I won’t forget what that chunky yellow stuff is’.

– Also, before you put anything into the freezer, think about when you’re actually going to use it. I had great intentions for my soup, upon freezing, but then proceeded to forget about it. I think I’ll keep a list on the fridge door of frozen lunches ect.

– Freezer + fridge + pantry = dinner. I made some pretty flash burgers from my lurking beef mince. Conveniently I had a tin of pineapple in the cupboard and tomatoes and eggs in the fridge. Last night I was cooking for one and so I threw together some rice egg sausage veg scramble thing. Which was great! And reminded me that a lot of the time we have enough stuff to make a substantial meal from assorted pantry and fridgefreezer paraphernalia.

I’ll be checking my freezer more regularly for lurkers – one day I might find some strawberries!

As an aside, I’m not really a sausage eater but the ones I had in my freezer were from the Blackball Salami Company and I recommend them!

Banana Walnut Muffins

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You can’t really go wrong with muffins. They’re quick to make, have a short baking time and they’re easy to throw together while cooking dinner on a Sunday night (or any night). They’re not too demanding and simple ingredients usually make for the best muffins. They’re best still warm from the oven but equally good a couple of days later slathered with a bit of butter. Bananas lend themselves tremendously well to baking – they’re best for baking when they’re at their worst to eat, reducing waste. They’re always available and usually always cheap. I like this recipe – its pretty unpretentious with a wholesome flavour and they’re not very sweet making them acceptable for breakfast if you’re pressed for time. Yes, I give you permission to eat muffin(s) for breakfast.

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Goals for May

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I’ve reached the conclusion that the older you get, the faster each year goes. This is a bit troubling considering I’m only 22 – maybe it slows down again at some point (I sure hope so). My life is pretty messy (as is my kitchen). My work roster is totally random and around that I juggle two uni papers, Happy Pantry and then the mish-mash of everything else – unfinished sewing projects, baking pies, running after Pesto, washing and naps. Everything is constantly in motion – half-finished, half-started and nothing is really ever finished. As soon as I finish one project I have to start something else. That’s how my brain functions. I think its an illness. Row says that’s why he loves me. Because of all of the above, I make lists. They’re my jam. I get lost otherwise. Lists make a fresh month seem manageable and exciting. Lists give me direction. I thought I’d share my list for May. May is a big month for me. It signals the end of my very first uni paper – only three weeks, one test and one exam to go! May is also the lead up to June, in which I’m taking two weeks off work (my exam is actually in June so this is for revision) and I’m going to visit my favourite bro in my favourite city, Wellington. May – you’re not shabby, stick around for a while please.

Happy Spaces v.7

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This print on Etsy. I’m really feeling that quote. I guess it could be a little controversial and may depend entirely on your frame of mind but for me, it reminds me to branch out, to seek new joys, to constantly strive to make more and do more and expand my mind.

– Elise sums up so much, so well in her post about DIYs as a part of her new series ‘Three things I know to be true’. (FYI: she is the Queen of making so I’d take her word!)

– This Happy Spaces seems to have a bit of theme…can you tell what’s been on my mind lately? Here is THE GREATEST post about getting stuck mid-DIY. Read this.

– This month (!) (which, by the way, is already going too fast) I want to sew my first skirt, a whole different ball game for me. I’ve spent hours cruising ’round on Tilly and the Buttons and I think I might try this skirt! (Helloooo pockets!).

– I got a new pot!!! (Cheers mum) So I think I’m going try this poached chicken recipe (except just one chicken). I’ve never poached chicken before, let alone the whole shebang. Results to follow!

– Lastly, how cute is this clutch on Etsy.

Have a super weekend. Mine is going to be very head-down, finishing a big assignment, plus working. But I get to wear my new boots so its OK!

Sewing: From One Beginner to the Next – Part Three, 25 Lessons

25 sewing lessons

It’s interesting writing this list. Over the weekend I learnt (roughly) to knit. I’m obsessed! There’s something about the repetitive process of knitting that I find very therapeutic. Sewing is a whole mix bag of things to me: challenging, tedious, frustrating, fun, immensely satisfying and addictive!

I was going to call this post ’25 Tips’ but really these are the lessons I have learnt over the last year. I hope they’re useful (or humorous) to other sewers and sewer newbies out there.

(You can read my first two sewing posts here: projects and tools.)

  1. Just start. I think we put off doing a lot of great things because our minds get in the way. No, you wan’t be a great sewer this first time you sew. Yes, it will be challenging. But it will also be one of the most rewarding  things you’ll ever learn to do.
  2. Keep going. It gets easier (and more fun).
  3. Connect with other sewers. The sewing community is enormous and awesome. Search the web, ask your friends and colleagues, check the newspaper.
  4. Sewing is surprising! Half the time, the parts of a project I think will be tricky are simple and the parts I think will be easy throw me off completely. Be prepared for a few surprises and when they come, take a deep breath and soldier on.
  5. Hit the craft store with the right info. Know exactly what length zip you need, or the right amount of fabric or what size buttons and write it down. Its a pain when you buy the wrong thing (but if you do, keep it aside for future use).
  6. Go with the flow. Let your instincts guide you and don’t not sew something because its too easy too challenging different intended for a child (I love tutes for children’s soft toys ect). If something sparks your interest, make it! That spark is what drives you when the sewing gets tough (see what I did there?).
  7. Don’t let those wonky stitches get you down. Show off your work! People won’t notice the flaws as much as you do. Sewing is an impressive skill.
  8. Start on the right foot. (Yours, not the machines). Back sew, back sew, back sew! Fold your fabrics nicely. Keep all your stuff in one place. Look after your machine.
  9. And take care of your stuff! Keep your scissors safe (especially from the males in the family). Have a good set-up for storing your fabric and other supplies. Keep all the little bits together in one place. Don’t let your thread get dusty.
  10. Good scissors are a must. Well cut fabric is crucial to a successful project almost always. Invest in or borrow some good scissors.
  11. Don’t wing it. Use a tutorial, a book or the internet for your first projects, with clear instructions and pictures.
  12. Make it easy. There are cool kits for embroidery and sewing.
  13. Keep all the fiddley bits. You’ll end up with random odds and ends – keep them. 
  14. Find a reason to sew that will motivate you to persevere. I fell in love with sewing because it gave me a means of decorating my new nest.
  15. Make a cup of tea! And take five. Its OK to take a break when something is frustrating, in fact its probably the best solution.
  16. You learn by doing. Practice really does make perfect. If you don’t know how to do something (say, insert a zip) the best way to learn is just to hack it out and give it a go! You’ll probably discover (like me) that it’s not too hard!
  17. Take time to cut and measure. This part can not be rushed.
  18. Invest in yourself. Sewing means spending money. Sometimes I’ve found it hard to justify the spending on a ‘hobbie’ but sewing is a lifetime skill that is super economical in the long run. Make that investment. You and your future self deserve it.
  19. Explore the possibilities. Hand sewing? Embroidery? Knitting!
  20. Read your instructions carefully and twice. 
  21. Your sewing machine manual is your best pal. This little booklet taught me to thread my machine, fill a bobbin, change a needle, change a presser foot, change stitches and so many other things.
  22. Watch out for seam allowance. With most projects, there will be allocated room in the pattern to a sew a seam. Most of time this is what trips me up. I sew a seam slightly too far to one side or slightly too fat and it warps my project. This is my sewing weakness. It may not (and probably won’t) be yours. My advice if you suffer from this is to practice sewing on scrap fabric, in straight lines and around bends and to make lots of softies or stuffed creatures and practice this skill.  
  23. If something turns out crap, its OK :) put it aside and come back to it in a few hours days weeks. Give yourself some space and then read through the instructions again and try to nut out what went wrong. Sometimes I have found that its just way beyond my skill level and I’ll try a different project. One day, I’ll go back to it. Other times, I may have just made an error and I can forge ahead (possibly after some seam ripping).
  24. Ask for help! If something is tripping you up, seek help. I usual hit up Google in the first instance. I bet someone you know is a sewer who is more than willing to share their expertise (Thanks Katie!).
  25. Sewing isn’t hard. Putting machine needle to fabric is easy. Sewing two things together is easy. Making cushion covers is easy. Searching for new projects is the most fun. Finishing a project is awesome. One thing I like to remind myself with any new device is that the designers want it to be easy for you. They don’t actually want to confuse the crap out of you. That’s not how they sell things (my marketing paper is coming in useful). A sewing machine is designed to be user friendly (I’m sure there are exceptions!). With a bit of patience, anyone can figure out the basics. Build from there. Don’t try to learn everything at once but do know that as you work things out it becomes easier and then the next step is not so difficult. I’m a strong beleiver that you can learn anything that you put your mind to. Sewing is no different.

Brown Rice and Bean Salad (100 Days of Veg)

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Or, how not to name a salad. Seriously, this is delicious and totally deserves a much more exciting name. I’m not very good at naming salads and at some point you have to stop listing the ingredients. I’m trying to figure out why I’m so late to the brown rice party. Its so much nicer than white rice, taste-wise, texture-wise and the no-brainer – nutrition-wise.

This salad is something I make to take for lunch on work days. Its also good any other time of the day. And would make a great take-along dish for a BBQ (I know its May). Basically its just good.

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Brown Rice & Bean Salad

1 cup of uncooked brown rice
1 425 gram can of kidney beans
1 300 gram can of whole corn kernels
1 large red capsicum or half a yelloworange and half a red*
3 spring onions (or more or less as your prefer)
For the dressing: 14 cup of oil (olive or other), 1 tablespoon of vinegar (I use rice wine vinegar), 12 a tablespoon of dijon mustard, 1 chopped clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon of cumin, a pinch of salt.

You need to cook the rice in advance so that it can cool well, before making the salad. You can do it the day night before if you like. Cook the rice according to the packet directions and allow to cool. (I spread it out on a plate). Once it has cooled, refrigerate if not using immediately.

Rinse and drain the beans and the corn and stir into the rice. Chop the capsicum into small cubes and add to the salad. Finely chop as much spring onion as you like and stir in (save some for a garnish if you like).

To make the dressing combine all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake well until combined. Taste and adjust as necessary. (You can make the dressing in a small bowl or mug and whisk together with a fork if you don’t have a jar). Stir the dressing into the salad and you’re done!

It can be kept in the fridge for a few days (I’m almost inclined to think its even better on day two) if you don’t eat it all in one go.

*I’m still finding relatively cheap capsicums at the veggie store but if you can’t find any try switching them out for celery, zucchini, carrot or roast seasonal veggies like kumara or parsnip.