Sunday, August 31, 2008

Our Garden Gets Built

I have been reading "The Creative Family" lately. I found it simultaneously inspiring and overwhelming. We're not ready for nature walks yet, or even family drawing time. But, there was one thing we could do and that is to start a vegetable garden.

I thought I would start small. There was a small grassy patch that was once a herb garden. I talked to Mum about it. Mum's a keen gardener. She knows about these things.
The Strawberry Plants That Started It All

Mum offered me some newly divided strawberry plants. The next sunny day we got the strawberries in. They should have been in the ground months ago, but it's a start.

I talked to Dad about it and all of a sudden we were discussing kitset garden bed vs. build your own.

Then I come home to find a trailer full of branches in the back yard, my father filling them, and a grumpy husband. Dad had announced that I wanted the garden finished in the next two weeks. After determining that I said nothing of the sort it calmed down somewhat.

Our Back Yard Becomes a Trailer Convention

Before I knew it there was a trailer of sheep manure on the back lawn. Then after some careful measuring, it was joined by a load of timber. For a while our back lawn looked like a trailer convention.

I was left with little sets of instructions, like clear away the area before I'm back to put in the posts, I've cut the timber but you will need to level the pieces before screwing them on. The first of the beds are full and the old compost heap is gone. Now it's our turn to level the remainder before the garden shed gets moved on Monday.

Granddad Showing Us How It's Done

We will get there, and hopefully well before that gardening Rubicon in late October, Labour Weekend. For now I dreaming of the things you can't buy, freshly picked sugar snap peas, scarlet runner beans, homegrown watermelon and sun warmed strawberries.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Words From Another Time

When I saw these plate, I thought of my Great Aunt. She could be both firm and loving, and often in the same sentence. My Great Aunt was fiercely independent and quite simply never had it overly easy. Legend has it she became the liberal aunt that my Mother and her sisters went to for a hot tea, stiff gin and a shoulder to cry on when heart broken. She had a passion for china and upholding the correct use of the English language.

One of my earliest memories involving her, was one Christmas when my brother announced that he needed to go to the “loo”. My great aunt was having none of this and my mother was told off for letting us use such coarse language. I still don't know what word she expected us to use. Water closet, maybe? Certainly not that American euphemism, bathroom when really you mean toilet.

She continued to up hold the english language in every way when I was in my teens. There are many words that you read a number of time before hearing them said. Opulent is one of them. My attempts at o-pew-lent were brushed aside with “It's op-ulent, Dear”.

Then there are words that changed in meaning over her life time. Once she told me of a wonderful evening she had had, lamenting that she couldn't just say gay anymore.

When I turned over these plates to check the mark, something my great aunt taught us all, I had to chuckle and I thought of her. The pattern certainly wouldn't be called “Gay Fantasy” today. I love the pattern, so airy with the leaf stencils, and definitely light hearted. My Great Aunt would be proud.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Applying Make-up on a Train

Following in my series of things to do on a train...There are some important things to consider when applying makeup on a train. As you are applying it on a train you are obviously pushed for time. To apply it at home would mean getting up even earlier.

Above: An extreme example of applying makeup on a train taken from The Marshall Cavendish Complete Book of Needle Craft

The first consideration is to apply while sitting in your seat, or using the bathroom. The bathroom has a better mirror, is less conspicuous and beside how else will you get your 10 minutes of balance exercises into the day?

Step 1 Foundation Powder is the easiest to apply and requires less accuracy so go with this option.

Step 2 Eyeliner Best to time this for the brief moment when you will be at a train station. Apply carefully. If the train is moving, apply very carefully.

Step 3 Eye Shadow Brace your knees between the measly vanity and the toilet pan to remain standing at mirror height. This requires more skill if the train driver is running late and prone to jerky movements.

Step 4 Blush Subtle colours are best as mistakes are likely.

Step 5 Lipstick See above. Remember that a scarlet track from the corner of your mouth to the right nostril is never becoming.

Finishing remember to smile nicely at the ticket collector who has been standing outside the cubicle door since the last station, and you are ready for work.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What Was in the Box?

This was in the box.

My cupcake swap has arrived at Susan's house.

I took the opportunity to re purpose some table linen picked up at a church fair. Consider it a beginners attempt at applique. There were scorch marks and burnt finger tips galore before I was finished.

The softies are magnets too. I had to call in the bolt cutters to get the magnets to the right size to hide underneath the cases. I made one to keep as well. I find it handy as pincushion stuck to the side of my sewing machine. Little e just tries to pull the wrapper off. While she may not be trying to eat them, it certainly looks like it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Knitting on a Train - Part 2

My next tip for knitting on a train would have to be “read the pattern carefully”, followed closely by “it's not too late to unpick” I have finished the cardigan for little e. It looks a little different from the picture on the pattern and possibly a little tighter.

I mis-read some instructions and cast the arms off a little too narrow. This would have been fine if my daughter was a cartoon character and had spaghetti arms. I only noticed this when knitting down the second half of the front and was very reluctant to unpick. I thought I was being clever when I devised a knitted gusset with contrast texture. Granted it looks great , but as I finished it, I had a feeling that it might have been quicker just to unpick in the first place.

After messing up the first button hole (yes, should have unpicked that too)I decided that I would sew domes on. A kilt pin will have to do while I work out where I put those pesky domes. The fleeting moment in which this cardigan fits my daughter may have already passed. For now, the kilt pin compliments my daughter's generous puku quite nicely.

I like the way this looks finished. When little e's puku finally wins the battle with the kilt pin, it will be lovingly washed and put aside in the baby box.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Seeing Stars Finished and on the Line

The seeing stars top is finished and so is my attempt to thriftily piece together the back. The weather is finally good enough to take the quilt outside and so here they are.

I'm pleased with the quilt. Thank-you so much to those who helped with my dilemma about the setting blocks a few weeks ago. I've looked at a few of the other finished tops on flickr and I am impressed by them all.

I got a little carried away on the backing. The silhouette of the clothes line in the photo was an accident, but maybe I could work with this. I was going to just sew together the cream fabrics in my stash into strips and keep going until I ended up with a square. Then I decided to use up all the remnants from the front too. It grew from there. Soon I was cutting bits already sewn together to add more colour. My dearest managed to watch most of Die Hard 4 in the “just 20 minutes” while I pieced the stripy section.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My Crafty Buget Failure

Tomorrow marks the end of my no fabric buying strategy. I was trying to only spend $15 a week. I started at the beginning of June. After overspending in July, I worked out that I couldn't buy any more until August 18. I have failed miserably.

In the interim, I have succumbed to the allure of:
5 balls of wool
An Amy Butler Card Kit
1m of boarder fabric for the jelly roll quilt
1m of batting for the days of the week quilt
5m of background & backing for the stars quilt (AND despite being the same name it wasn't an exact match)
3m of merino & wool knits at the global fabric sale
2m of stretch silk at the global fabric sale too
buttons, threads, magnets and steam a seam for various projects


So after a but of re-jigging, it looks like I spend about 3 x the estimated amount on fabric each week. 2 x would have been amusing but this is getting a bit out of hand.

My problem is that I buy too much fabric and I possibly have too much fabric.

I am starting with piecing fabric I already have, along with the remnants and undersized blocks, to make the back of the seeing stars quilt.

Ideas and miracle cures to the craft budgeting problems would be warmly welcomed.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Time for Crumble

There are quaint sayings about making lemonade,when given lemons. I literally had one of those moments when little e systematically took a bite of each apple on the fruit bowl. I knew it was time for crumble.

(I got excited about my new to me fruit bowls and took a photo well before the fruit was attacked)

My mum makes the best crumble. When I was about 16 she taught me how and I have been making it since. It is a matter of ratios and you can add pretty much any fruit that tastes good cooked. Take it from me, tamarillos* are good here.

For the ½ cup version, you will need:

Raw fruit (about 6 apples or maybe 4 apples and some tamarillos)**
½ cup flour
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup sugar (half brown, half white)
50g butter

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcious.

Peel, core and slice fruit. Place in an oven proof dish that fits the fruit, say 20cm round.. If the fruit is tart add sugar to sweeten.

Mix together dry ingredients. Grate the butter and add to the dry ingredients. Saving a little to sprinkle over the top.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until fruit is cooked.

This version serves about 4-5. If you have more people to feed, increase the quantities i.e ¾ cup of dry ingredients and more fruit.

*If you are wondering about the tamarillos, they are the purple egg shaped fruit just below the mini pumpkin.

**Harder fruit like quince, taste great but will need to be precooked.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Talking With Friends

When I saw this kitset many years ago it reminded me of sitting and chatting with my friend, M. I had just left university and started my first job in a new city. I was really missing my friends too.

M and I have been friends since the beginning of university and lived in number of dodgy flats together, before striking out to different cities. We had both come from boarding schools and were marveling at the freedom of university. While in the first days of the university hostel everyone was asking about study and exam marks, M was the first to ask about family. It's the little things that you remember.

We have lived cities and countries apart, managing to stay in touch all the while. Along with her husband, she is a godparent to my child. Her son insists on being part of the action too, and sees himself as a godbrother.

While neither of us has ever owned a frumpy dress like the one in the picture, I think the pink top and brown pants looks like someone has raided my wardrobe. The picture hasn't really changed over the years. There are a few more kids toys on the floor, maybe, and husbands doing manly things somewhere.

After eight years the picture is finished and on it's way to M for her birthday and yes, it still reminds me of sitting and talking with her.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Work in Very Slow Progress

Last time I gave any serous thought to tidying my craft space, I vowed once again to reduce the number of WISPS. After counting up an embarrassing number of Works in Slow Progress, I decided to start with some that were almost finished and this pair fits the bill.

I adored these Jennifer Pudney kitsets. I finished stitching them in 2000 and 2002 – so let's make that work in very slow progress. As I had no idea as to how to frame them, they stayed that way until today. There are some very helpful notes on framing here. My masochistic streak had me trying to stitch the canvases over their blocking, before giving in and going hammer and tong with the glue gun.

It's time to bundle one of them up as her new owner is waiting.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Yes, We've Noticed Too

A lovely note in little e's daycare note book:

“We have noticed that e loves taking off her socks and giving her toes a tickle”

Yes, we've noticed too.

The tide line of socks around her crib is a dead giveaway. She waves the things like streamers at a victory parade.

Make Your Day - More on World Sweet World

As some people have asked - World Sweet World is a magazine "for makers and creative folk". You can get it at lots of little stores for stylie people.

So far I have read about making things
Beer Glasses (maybe for Christmas)
A Cardboard Magazine Holder (I'm sure it could be tweaked for cookbooks) and
A recycled window cloche.

Then there is the goings on with Craft 2.0, that I will get to one day, and craftivism.

They have a website here and yes, you can subscribe to it in the states.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Shopping Expedition and a Hungry Caterpillar

I now have my very own copies of World Sweet World and I am impressed. On our weekend shopping trip to the big smoke I was able to call in at Madam Fancy Pants to get World Sweet World. I had read about it and am stoked that it lives up to the hype with a number of new ideas and information about local-ish goings on.

Other local-ish news – The Sawmiller's Quiltery is getting in The Very Hungry Caterpillar fabrics. I ducked in to take advantage of pre-ordering and am looking forward to having my very own Hunky Hungry Caterpillar fabric.

As far as the fabric budget is going, I don't think preordering counts and I can neither confirm nor deny money changing hands at the Global Fabric sale.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Spring Is On It's Way

Maybe I'm getting a little hopeful but the signs of spring are around me this week. This is what greeted me at the kitchen window on Friday morning.

I love borrowed gardens. The neighbor's plum tree hangs over the fence at our kitchen window. From here I can see the other plums trees and a lone feijoa.

I've also been watching our magnolia closely. I'm sure it was flowering earlier last year. Aa it was our first winter in the house, we had no idea what colour it was going to be. I have fond memories of sitting in bed, nursing little e, and watching the spidery purple blossoms. I spent so much time inside, that at times, the flowers on this tree were my only real reminder that the seasons were changing.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Cup Cakes in the Mail Box

There was a strange package in our mail box yesterday. I couldn't remember ordering anything on line lately, and there were no trade me purchases either. Then I saw the US postal mark. It's my cupcakes and just in time for morning tea.

I put the jug on, put my feet up and opened the package. The quilt and softie are wonderful and of course the red is just me. Susan, you've done a wonderful job of making these. I'd forgotten there would be tea too so just as well the jug was on.

I'm impressed with the US postal service. When they say 5 – 10 days, they mean it. This took only 6 working days to get to my obscure little town. The New Zealand service leaves me wondering, however. Most of the time parcels are left at the door. While everything arrived intact, no one had read the Do Not Squish when trying to use our tiny mail box.