Tuesday, 25 February 2014
And here we are steaming through February! I was saying to someone the other day, it sort of feels like I've stepped on to a spinning merry go round this year. What about you? What with all the work to catch up on after our long slow holiday, the new terms, music and sports starting for the kids, and all those other distractions that go with the start of a year. Embarassingly on my last two visits to the library I have managed to leave my card behind. I blame my overloaded brain!
I've managed to squeeze in some creative pursuits though which help keep me sane. There's been quilt binding, a bit more cheesemaking, and I've also started another Ceramics course.
For quite a while I've wanted to have a go at making with clay, and the four week ceramics course I did before Christmas only strengthened that idea.
This year I'm at Pine Street Creative space in Chippendale for a nine week course. One night a week I jump on a bus and head in for some time on the pottery wheel. I find it really helps to clear the cobwebs. However tired or stressed I am, I end up thinking only about keeping that lump of clay on the wheel and how to turn it into something beautiful. Without fail I walk out calm and destressed. Making as mediation, it works for me!
It also helps that I know Mr F has a dinner and a glass of wine waiting when I get home at 9.30!
I've also been trying to do some morning yoga in place of my daily walk to school now the kids are leaving earlier to catch the bus. There are some great quick yoga workouts on youtube (oh how I love you youtube!) and I've been doing these ten minute Yoga Solution videos followed with Salute to the Sun every week day and some weekends (this is a good video if you want a refresher or don't know this great series of poses).
I've also been doing this crazy online meme called the plank challenge though I've modified it to suit me, there was no way I was going to progress to 2 minutes planking in 16 days! Currently I'm up to about a minute and as I get stronger I'm slowly increasing the time. I'm inclined to get lower back pain and core strengthening makes a big difference.
On Saturday night we had Miss A's long awaited sixteenth birthday party. If you haven't held a teenage party yet, its a little different from a toddler party, but not much, they just eat more and pickup is way later! Luckily the weather played nice as we'd set up the garden with lights and candles and balloons, couches, chairs and trugs of ice and drinks.
I remember being a bit worried the first time we held a party for bigger kids, but I shouldn't have been. A has the sweetest gang of girls and boys and it was just lovely, if exhausting, to have them all here. I like them and their parents a lot.
Luckily a great time was had by all, and a crowd of them stayed over and watched movies till late. A couple of brave parents dropped in for a chat, and apart from the food the kids were self sufficient. Hooray for no party games! I made waffles in the morning and Mr F cooked them bacon. Lucky things!
As you can see we set up the garden with couches and chairs and Mr F improvised a firepit with the salvaged inside drum of an old washing machine. Have you ever seen this done? We've been meaning to do it for ages as a friend of ours has one and it is the best thing.
Tuesday, 18 February 2014
We welcomed another baby to our extended family late last year. Precious little Sidney.
We've been dying to see him since he came, but sadly circumstances and distance have conspired against us!
Finally the other day his family were going to be camping an hour and a half's drive from us. By coincidence we were all going to be together with a free afternoon after the school presentation day on Friday, so we decided to take a roadtrip.
Little Sid rewarded us with beautiful baby smiles. Is there anything quite so precious as those infectious smiles a small baby gives so generously! Sid is as adorable as in his photos and twice as cuddly.
Around here another baby means another baby quilt. A new traditon I started for a new generation of babies. First came Poppy's quilt and then Penny's.
I was really pleased to finally pass on Sid's baby quilt. I like to think we are heading into quilt season now anyway!
I actually started this quilt top a while ago, playing around with all my different fabrics. I'm proud to say there are quite a few featured - 22 out of 35 squares in fact! There's my RickRack design in red and aqua, my marbles print in different colours and scales and my Bricks prints in large and small. Also here is my neglected but favourite Triangle Twist pattern which I keep meaning to print in different scales and colours.
I love how they look together! My bricks design has proven so popular since I introduced it and its always nice to sew with it myself.
As usual the binding put me off. I forget how easy it is and procrastinate until I'm forced to do it. I actually cheated and used self binding for the last two and if you don't know what that means check out my Baby Quilt tutorial. For this go round I found this video tutorial invaluable and used a 2.5 inch binding. I then followed this video for hand sewing it down.
Quilts aren't actually that difficult. Its just a fair bit of straight sewing and a bit of confidence! If you aren't a quilter (and I still don't consider myself a real quilter after four quilts!) and want to make a really simple gift like this check out my simple baby quilt tutorial. It has lots of photos and I've tried to include all the information a beginner would need to tackle a small quilt like this. And actually I always find the best way to learn is to start.
In a funny coincidence, on Friday just before I finally gifted this quilt to dear little Sid we had a call to tell us that another new baby is coming later this year! A lovely nudge to start planning the next quilt!
Wednesday, 12 February 2014
My cheese making adventure continued last week. The cheesemaking kit I have came with ingredients and recipes for some of my favourite cheeses and I'm slowly working my way through them all. So far I've made halloumi, feta, mozzarella, chevre and havarti. Its a bit addictive!
I can't believe how simple cheese making is, and yet how complex!
Some people might wonder why I bother making something I can buy so easily. (Though I know that others of you will be googling online where to get the kit!!!)
There's something about making basic foods that appeals to me, and it helps me understand and respect the good stuff. And I love knowing how all this amazing food alchemy works.
I'm looking at cheeses with a whole new eye, and marvelling!
I also believe the food we eat has a huge influence on our health, fitness and longevity. I'm trying to get away from processed food and cook with natural fresh ingredients more often these days. And so its great to use my own ingredients which I know are made with all natural and quality ingredients.
And it tastes pretty fantastic too!
Making mozzarella was quite a similar process to the halloumi (recipe here, video here), but once the basic curds are made and drained they go back into a heated whey and get warmed until they become stretchy. While they are still hot to touch (hence the gloves) you fold them and stretch them back and forth, which creates the stringiness you get inside a ball of mozzarella. Once they are smooth you push them through your hand to create the distinctive ball.
Fresh mozzarella is truly worth the effort, especially like this, chopped roughly in a salad of tomato and basil and with a simple oil and vinegar dressing. It was so delicious, soft and creamy! This one is definitely on the make again list!
Google as always is a great resource for info about anything and I have discovered a rich online cheese making world. For example this great site cheesemaking.com has picture posts showing the basic technique for mozzarella and other cheeses.
Of course I love having a kit because it gives me everything I need in one box, but you could easily put together the simple equipment and additives more cheaply by just buying the necessaries through one of the cheesemaking sites (green harvest, mad millie, oz farmer, cheeselinks - just google cheese kit for some different options.) You can alternatively get smaller cheaper kits to make a few of the easy fresh cheeses like ricotta, halloumi, mozzarella, to see if you enjoy it before splashing out.
Monday, 10 February 2014
Don’t you love a well wrapped present? I do, I love the way it adds another layer of care to a specially chosen gift.
I enjoy wrapping presents too. I like coordinating the giftwrap and card, and occasionally dressing it up with ribbon or a bow. The year before last I designed and shared my own gift tags.
One of the things I love the most about buying handmade is the wrapping. Don’t you think? I’ve rarely received a parcel from a maker that wasn’t wrapped with care and individuality, and a beautiful piece of string! And I love buying cards from artists I know and love. I have a bit of a collection as you can see, though I find it hard to give them away, as you can see!
You won’t be surprised to hear I am one of those annoyingly slow present openers who carefully removes the sticky tape, carefully unknots the string, and tries to save the paper!
I was a bit sad this Christmas that I didn’t get to spend as much time and thought on my wrapping as I’d have liked. I had grand plans to make some wrapping paper and gift tags using an inkpad and stamps. I’ve done this before with potato prints when the kids were small but it has remained one of those projects that I always mean to get too but run out of time.
So this year I am starting the year as I mean to go on. I got the stamps and tags out and some crispy new brown paper and made a start.
One of my sister’s in law is a great wrapper. She always personalises her parcels with string and stickers and layered wrapping. Her presents are always distinctive. I’d like to be more like her. Another sister in law always has the perfect card. Carefully chosen especially for each recipient, mine are always perfect for me, and I always end up saving them.
In line with my resolution to have my presents more organised this year, I bought four brooches from local maker Polli's sale last month. One for each of my four sister in laws’ birthdays this year. I’m feeling smugly organised. With that purchase out of the way I'm going to get them wrapped and tagged, ready to send out. I might try to buy some little gift boxes for that extra touch. Oh and these little shoes bought ages ago from Melissa Wastney that I've had tucked away were wrapped and tagged and gifted to a precious new little girl on the weekend!
To inspire me I've also started a new Wrap pinterest board to collect images for inspiration.
I’m also ahead of the game for Valentine’s Day with these special wine boxes sent to me by Pack Queen. I love the way they dress up a simple bottle of wine for gift giving, and the different colours make the perfect base for a bit of stamping. I’m going to personalise one with this newly carved heart stamp for Mr Flowerpress’s Valentine’s gift, a bottle of nice champagne which I’m hoping he will share with me!
How about you? Are you an organised present buyer and wrapper? And do you give Valentine’s Day presents? We aren't too fussed about it, but I'm lucky enough to get chocolates from my favourite local chocolate makers sometimes, and I always share!
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
I liked the idea of making my own eco-friendly detergent without nasty additives and I'd read that it was easy and much cheaper than buying it. On top of that I was sick of dragging home heavy bottles of detergent and hated the packaging waste.
And is it good?
Truth is I haven't bought any premade detergents since February last year and I figure I've saved myself a lot of money in that time. (To see how much I've made a price comparison for you below between bought and home made.) I also love that when I run out (invariably on the weekend) its a simple thing to pull out the ingredients and make another batch rather than having to drive to the shops and buy more.
All the recipes are very similar but I think I based my measurements initially on this one. This batch makes a bucket full, about nine litres. You can also make dry powder but I've always found that makes my sensitive skin itch.
1 and a half litres of water
1 cup soap flakes or grated soap (I use Lux flakes because its quick and easy.)
1/2 cup borax
1/2 cup washing soda
10mls eucalyptus oil (optional but I love the smell and I guess I'm used to scented detergent)
Bucket, containers for finished soap, pot, wooden spoon, measuring cup, funnel if you have one. I keep my ingredients together in the pantry and in the washing soda container a copy of the recipe so its there when I need it.
Put one and a half litres of warm water in a pot and put on the stove on medium to high heat.
Add 1 cup soap flakes or grated soap and stir till it dissolves (above).
Add 1/2 cup borax and 1/2 cup washing soda and stir to combine until the mixture thickens (below).
Pour mixture into a bucket and fill with warm water.
Stir to combine.
As it cools the mixture thickens so keep stirring or the top will harden and you'll have to stir it to break it up again. I keep the bucket in the bath and stir it when I walk past.
When the detergent is cold decant it into bottles. A jug or a funnel makes this process easier because the mixture is quite thick by this time.
And that's it! How easy is that? Once you get into the routine its a pinch and much easier than dragging it home from the shops, paying ten times as much and now you know exactly what goes into it, all eco friendly ingredients.
The other day I was in Woollies and noticed the price of the detergent we'd been using (photo below). It was a nice reminder of the money we are saving. The five of us go through a lot of washing detergent, what with sport and school and work and everything.
I sat down and made a price comparison based over ten litres for the basic ingredients. And even I was pleasantly surprised. My homemade detergent is 15% of the price, each two litre bottle saves me over $8. Times that by two or three bottles a month and the savings mount up.
Homemade per 9L
Lux flakes ($7.19/700g) - 1 cup, 123g = $1.26
Borax - Glitz Green ($7.98/kg) - 1/2 cup, 107g = $0.85
Washing Soda Lectric $3.86/kg - 1/2 cup, 133g = $0.51
Hurricane Top Loader ($8.99/2L) $4.50/L or $45/10L
Homemade ($2.62/9L) 29c/L or $2.91/10L
Edited to add
* according to Lisa on instagram you can even lower the amount of borax, which helps make it friendlier for her husband with psoriasis.
* there are no foaming agents so it is initially quite disconcerting because it doesn't foam.
* I have been meaning to further thin it because it can come out in a bit of a glob because its quite thick.
* All the ingredients I found in the soap powder aisle at my local supermarket.