Sunday, December 28, 2008

Stash Busting - A New Years Resolution

It's only a few days until the New Year and I have been thinking about embarking on a year of stash reduction. It's a great way to make space for new acquisitions and an incentive to get creative about the use of what is already there.

Feeling sure that there must be some rules for this sort of thing, I googled it. I found a site complete with competitions and registration. It sounded a bit too organised for me and I can't for the life of me find the site again. There are stash busting tips for knitters too.

I wanted to know if backing fabric and boarders count. Can I still buy fabric for making gifts? Then I found this pledge. It sounds like me.

If anyone is keen to join me on the stash busting, let me know. You don't even need to be a quilter, just a crafter with some hoarding habits to break.

Note: I've had the set of catalog drawers for a while but only just finished the labels for each drawer.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Blue Drawer or the Pink One?

While I am not overly keen on knowing the gender of an unborn child, I would like to know what fabric to use for the next quilt. I'd love to be tucking into the pinks and yellows, but maybe, the blues and greens would be more appropriate?

Note: My Dearest is certain he wants to know, so it looks like we might have a split decision.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Quick, While There is Still Time - Mustard and Cake Recipes

I thought I'd share my last minute flurry of Christmas Gifting and Baking. Today saw me at the kitchen bench making Christmas cake and another batch of mustard. I am pretty good at leaving things until the last minute and so treasure the things that I know I can get done quickly.

If you are like me and put off making a Christmas cake until the very last minute, here is the recipe for you – Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Christmas Cake. The cake doesn't immediately taste like chocolate, more like fruit and honey and the mixture smells deliciously like pan forte. My husband who will not touch alcohol, likes the cake because it doesn't have any alcohol (well, not after I've substituted the liqueur with coffee). It doesn't have any candied peel so pleases the anti candy peel brigade too. I especially like that it is really moist and doesn't need the usual seasoning over time to be ready before Christmas.

I change the mustard recipes I use every year. As Molly asked, I thought I should share one or two. Last year I stumbled upon Spicy German Mustard and have made this recipe again this year.

I have used the recipe below a number of times including this afternoon. If you get the seeds soaking today, or tomorrow, you can jar it on Tuesday and still be ready for Christmas.

Honey and Cardamom Mustard

Makes approx. 580 g

2/3 Cup Whole Yellow Mustard Seeds
2/3 Cup Whole Black Mustard Seeds
1 1/3 Cup Cider Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Cardamom Seeds
6 Tablespoons Water
6 Tablespoons Liquid Honey

Combine mustard seeds and vinegar in a non-reactive bowl. Leak to soak for 24 hours.

Dry fry the cardamom seeds until fragrant. Grind seeds roughly with a pestle and mortar.

Add cardamom, honey and water to mustard seeds and grind until the desired texture.

Spoon into small clean preserving jars.


Grinding -The texture of the mustard is a matter of taste. The mustard seeds tend to elude the blade of a food processor. I use a stick blender to mix all of the ingredients and spice grinder to grind small portions till smooth and then stir back through the main mixture

Whole Mustard Seeds – If you are buying only small amounts of mustard seeds, I recommend using your local Indian spice store. If you are buying a lot, or well away from spice stores a wholesaler like Moore Wilson is good too.

Jars – You will probably be looking for small jars. I find these ones from The Warehouse (I admit, I was surprised) are the best. The seals do not have any metal in contact with the mustard and consequently don't corrode. If you are using jars with metal next to the mustard, try not to keep the mustard for more than 6 months as the lids corrode slightly. Otherwise, baby food jars are just ideal.

Timing – Most mustards need about a week for the flavours to blend. So if you are making mustard for a gift this week, let the recipient know they need to wait a little bit longer to taste it.

Variations – The general rule for mustards appears to be equal parts of seeds and vinegar soaked for 24 hours, season, grind and thin with water or more vinegar if needed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Playing Catch-Up

I signed up for a quilt block swap earlier this year. We were to be making a block a month and sending it on. The blocks varied from month to month and so did my ability to keep up. Fortunately, there were no blocks assigned for December and so yesterday saw me posting off my last 3 blocks for the year.

To Samantha, I'm posting her Muddy Garden block. Samantha posted out the pieces, the pattern and really almost everything but the finished block. I'm posting it back without the button holing as my machine, at it's youthful 10 years, doesn't do buttonhole stitch.

To Lynda, I've sent a rosebud block. Lynda sent out a swatch of fabric for us to co-ordinate with. The block was to be 12 1/2” with a rose theme. I poured through “Quilts from the Quiltmaker's Gift” and found this one. It is yet to be squared up.

Finally to Lynette, a tree house. Lynette, simply asked for an appliqué house block using any type of house and any type of appliqué. I was delighted to try my hand at a tree house block like those that I have seen over at Common Threads. I especially like the leaves.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Inherited Family Lists

Every year my side of the family converges in Wellington for Christmas dinner. It's a big event and this year, bigger than usual.

With 19 guests, my gift making has gone into overdrive or at least my panicking has. Friday and Saturday nights saw me cutting and gluing book marks based on this tutorial from How About Orange. I figure those that are flying to Wellington for the event won't have much spare baggage space and nearly everyone in my family reads voraciously.

My Aunt has hosted us for the last 10 or so years. Two years ago, she moved into an apartment. This worked the first year, but this it will be harder work as there will be 19 of us. My aunt has hunted around for tables and chairs and the list of responsibilities was emailed out on Friday.

The list is an annual tradition. It used to be an unspoken responsibility that you inherited from your mother. My Great Aunt made great meringues and hence, her daughter now has that responsibility. Things have become more formal in the last few years with the list being first mailed, and then later emailed out. My mother was a little miffed when I inherited the task of bringing mince pies. I think it is more a testament to the fantastic pies she has made in years past. This years list came with little annotations along the lines of “Amy - tell your brother he's bringing the beer as he is wayward and had no email address”, to my cousin – “You need to read the attachment as you are bringing things this year.”

I've got the ingredients and so will be breaking into the mince pie making soon. It usually goes well. Maybe this year my mother won't feel she needs to make up a few dozen back up pies, just in case.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Early Morning Harvest

Yesterday, when the sun was shining, E and I were able to get in the first crop of rhubarb. The leaves were getting bigger and bigger, threatening to take over.

After a bit of taste testing, Little e decided that rhubarb is not her favourite food.

Today, the weather is not so good, we are inside enjoying fresh rhubarb cake.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Lists

The build up to Christmas is a time of lists. There are the fantastical rolls that Santa holds on the front of cookie boxes and then there are the everyday lists of things to be done before Christmas. I'm getting good at making the lists, not so good at ticking them off.

I have been making Christmas lists for a long time. As a child I collected the Christmas sections of magazines that were being thrown out. From these I put together a dream list, with a gastronomic focus -cookies, rum balls, candies and cakes. When Mum looked aghast at the list. I refined it a little more. With the help of my inner geek, I broke the list down into ingredients and gave mum a shopping list. I never got any further than the rumballs (adult supervised, of course) but at least I gave it a go.

This year is no different. A few weeks ago I started on the lists again, this time with less of a focus on my appetite. There are decorations to be made, tutorial I have book marked to try, gifts to get finished and a bit of cooking too. Hopefully I'll get a bit further down the list this time.

I have started off with some making mustard and dukkah, figuring with two batches of cooking I can get multiple gifts sorted. After a few years of mustard making, I have my extended family trained up. If they return the empty jars, I will return the jars to them, refilled. It appears to work, and keeps my lists eco-friendly too.

How are your lists going? I'd love to hear.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What's in the Box This Time?

By the look of this jaunty fellow, you should be able to work just what is in the box. Our Christmas tree goes up tonight.

A friend mentioned that his kids find putting up the Christmas tree to be up there with Christmas day itself. I would have to agree.

I found this treasure at a local jumble sale. I have wanted on old school tinsel tree since seeing the one at Allsorts last year. This even has a little docket inside to show it was bought in Napier New World for the princely sum of $4.50. I have no idea of the year but I can only guess it was the eighties.

After a bit if thinking we are going to have to put this “Non-Tarnish Everlasting Christmas Tree” up high. Last year Little e had the wonder, this year she has the wonder and the ability to investigate. Just as well this tree fits on the side board.

Bring on the music and the mince pies and lets get this one out of the box.

Book Tag

I have been tagged by the lovely Janelle of Heart Felt for the book tag. So here goes:

Go to the closest book to you, not necessarily the book you have just read, or your favorite, but the closest. Turn to page 56 and copy out the 5th line, followed by the next 2 to 5 lines.

“How did I think it would feel, when it came to standing on those starting blocks?”

The book is “Alessandra - Alex in Rome” by Tessa Duder. It follows a young swimmer competing in the Rome Olympics. I picked it up second hand for a friend. Her daughter happens to be called Alessandra, and I thought of this book when I was first introduced to the little one. I loved the for book in the Alex series, but I lost interest somewhere in the second book, “Alex in Winter”. One day I should get around to reading the last one so don't tell me what happens.