Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas skirts

I made Christmas skirts for the girls this year. Unfortunately I didn't have time to make a shirt or trousers for Robert.

Ruby's skirt (left photo) is an Ottobre hack. It is simply the underskirt of the "Misty" skirt from issue 01/2008#13, modified to be an elasticated waist. As I was making the skirt for Ruby she looked upset, indicated that she didn't like the fabric and said "next time, please just buy me a skirt at the shops". Thankfully once it was completed she was overjoyed with it. I'm not 100% happy with it, however it has served its purpose as a Christmas skirt quite well. (Hubby thinks she looks like a tablecloth).

Laura's skirt (right photo) is from Butterick B4437 and was shortened considerably. I'm really happy with how this turned out, it isn't nearly as fully and 'boofy' as Ruby's skirt and the fabric is a lot more subtle.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Prototype handbag

As I made a handbag for Mum for Christmas, I haven't been able to post about my handbag sewing until now. It has been hard to stay quiet about it! The following photos are of my first attempt at sewing a handbag. I'm pretty happy with the result.

I used a free pattern from Ottobre Designs it is the "Dotted Dream purse". I modified the pattern to include an internal zippered pocket and also a zipper closure for the top of the bag. As to fabric, the exterior is 100% cotton canvas, interior is polycotton. If you are tempted to try making a handbag, I'd recommend the free Ottobre Designs pattern. It goes together beautifully. I'd also recommend referring to u-handbag for tutorials on adding zippered pockets and closures.

The only problem I've had with the bag is that one of the handles is pulling out. This is because the fabric frays really easily. I love this purse and I'll be making it again. I think next time I'll (a) add even more pockets. (b) make the handles slightly longer(c) build more seam allowance into the handles and sew a second line of stitching for reinforcement.

For Mum's Christmas present I modified the pattern considerably. I'll post about the bag next week.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

R is for ... (a meme)

Mermaids posted an interesting meme on her blog and it sounded like fun, so I put my hand up to be involved. Here are the directions that she posted:

  • You leave a comment on this post, and I’ll assign you a letter. You write about ten things you love that begin with your assigned letter, and post it at your place.

  • When people comment on your list, you give them a letter, and the chain continues on and on.

  • You can leave a comment and not be assigned a letter if you want. Just let me know if you want a letter to keep this going.

She gave me an "R" for the yummy recipes that I've been posting. Here are 10 R things that I love:

1. Reorganising - I seem to be the queen of reorganising things. I'm not a naturally organised and neat person. I seem to be sporadically neat ... I sort things out, maintain it for a while and then it falls apart and the process starts again. My most recent reorganisation was moving my sewing room from one room to another. I can now sew and watch TV at the same time :)

2. Recipes - Mermaids was right ... I do love recipes. I don't like using store purchased sauces and flavouring. I like to do things from scratch. To be honest, the amount of additives in the processed ingredients concerns me, and I don't like the flavour of most processed things. I don't do too much baking as I lack self-control and overeat the sweet things. Cooking of family meals I used to love, but recently it has been quite a slog. I love it when family members have an opinion on what we eat. I love it when family members give feedback about if they like or dislike a meal. I dislike having to decide what everyone eats all of the time...

3. Respect - I love it when the kids respect me! Wish this happened most of the time ... I can dream can't I?

4. Rest - I love rest time when the kids actually play quietly and rest and I get some quiet time myself. I love to hear myself think ... I think that this is one of the things I miss the most now that I have kids. The kids rest time has evaporated lately. I still have one that sleeps. The other two until recently were made to play quietly in their rooms, but that turned into an hour of torture where I was resolving fights and tromping up and down the stairs. We are now trialling 'quiet time' with a bit more freedom. It isn't working really well, and I don't want to resort to TV. Any suggestions?

5. Roses - We've got lots of roses in the garden and at the moment they look and smell lovely. I'm so used to the smell that I don't notice it much any more. Our visitors often comment on their scent.

6. Resolution - I love it when there is a resolution to conflict. As I type this I am hoping that the kids find a resolution *really* soon.

7. Research - I like teaching myself how to do things ... and that involves lots of juicy research. When I was a teenager, I taught myself how to make bobbin lace. Something I haven't done for years. I really need to do some more of it soon. Sewing is what I've been working on lately, and I've been researching new techniques. I've just completed a handbag with piping - first time I've done piping and it was so easy and effective.

8. Reading - I've always enjoyed reading. I would like to do more of it. It seems that I've fallen out of the habit. There is no reading time during the day and evenings are currently dedicated to sewing.

9. Reticulation - Automatic sprinklers (reticulation) are wonderful. They sure beat having to go and move the sprinkler around.

10. Relatives - I love my relatives. I don't see the extended family often enough, but I really enjoy their company when I do see them.

If you want to play along, please leave a comment and I'll assign a letter to you.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Please bolt furniture to the walls

Thankfully everything is OK, however I've just had a rather harrowing afternoon in Emergency. Robert's chest of drawers fell on top of him. Only last night we were saying that we needed to bolt it to the wall... It was taking us a while to get around to it. Please, if you've got kids, don't delay bolting your furniture to the wall. It isn't worth the risk.

Edited to add: Here is how we bolted the chest-of-drawers to the wall.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Curry in a Hurry - pressure cooker recipe

Curry in a Hurry
from "Pressure Perfect" by Lorna Sass

1 cup water

4 tablespoons Patak's Mild Curry Paste (curry powder doesn't produce a good result)

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

3 pounds chicken breast halves

1 cup plain yoghurt (regular or low-fat)

1 1/2 cups frozen peas (rinse away any ice crystals)

3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)


Pour water into pressure cooker and blend in the curry paste. Set over high heat and add the onion and chicken.

To cook rice at the same time as the curry: In a bowl (which will fit in your pressure cooker), combine 1 cup long-grained rice with 1.5 cups of water. Using a long strip of aluminium foil as a 'sling', lower the bowl into the pressure cooker. It will rest on top of the curry. Leave the 'sling' in place (fold it down if necessary) as you'll use the 'sling' when removing the bowl.

Lock lid in place. Over high heat bring to pressure. Reduce heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 8 minutes then turn off the heat, leave the lid on and let it stand for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, release the pressure by placing the cooker into a sink of cold water. Once the pressure has been released, remove the lid. If the chicken or meat isn't tender, cover and simmer until done.

If necessary, skim off the fat that rises to the surface. Blend the yoghurt into 1 cup of the broth. Stir the peas into the curry and simmer until they are defrosted. Turn off the heat and stir in the yoghurt mixture. Stir in the coriander and salt to taste. Serve with rice.

Note: Other types of meat can be used, but the cooking time will need to be adjusted. Refer to "Pressure Perfect" for cooking times.

To-Do Tuesday

I have so many things that I need to do which just don't get done. To motivate myself a bit I've decided to do a weekly 'To Do' list of 7 important items. You'd think that 7 items would be achievable in a week, wouldn't you??

So here we go:

Daily - Declutter for 15 minutes before bed.

Tuesday & Wednesday - Sew the unmentionable Christmas gift for Mum.

Wednesday - Phone Y

Thursday - Sew some hand-sized bean bags for the kids to use for throwing.

Friday - Update the finances

Saturday - Christmas baking for the neighbours

Sunday - Buy the last Christmas presents.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chocolate Truffles - recipe

Chocolate Truffles

500g leftover cake, crumbled into a bowl (could use Death By Chocolate cake or Fruitcake)
Chocolate ganache
Other additions as required (see below)

Add ganache to crumbed cake. Mix with hands to form a paste. Roll paste between your hands to form small balls. (You could add a hazelnut in the centre of the ball). Refrigerate balls for a few hours. Dip refrigerated balls in melted chocolate and (if required) roll in coconut or cocoa etc etc

Other possible additions:
* alcohol
* glace cherries
* dried fruit (seeped in black tea overnight to soften the fruit)

Other notes & recipes from the course:
Basic Cupcake Mix - recipe
Death by Chocolate cupcake mix - recipe
Chocolate Ganache - recipe
Cream Cheese Frosting for cupcakes - recipe
Chocolate Truffles - recipe

Chocolate Ganache - recipe

Chocolate Ganache
Ganache has heaps of uses. It is best made with commercial chocolate, which you can purchase from cake decorating shops.

600ml Thickened Cream
800g Dark Chocolate (NOTE: Cannot use white chocolate for this recipe - it won't work. Need to adjust quantities).

Boil the cream (ie must rise up in saucepan otherwise the ganache won't set properly). Pour onto the chopped chocolate. Whisk until combined (can add alcohol at this stage if required). Store in fridge overnight. Remove from fridge 2 hours before use. (If you are making truffles, remove from the fridge approx 6 hours before use).


  • Truffles, - If using ganache to make truffles, remove the ganache from the 'fridge in morning and make the truffles in the afternoon.
  • Tart - Fill a pastry case with the ganache. For a flavoured tart add berries or hazelnuts.
  • Lamingtons - Make 'Double Chocolate Lamingtons' using the Death By Chocolate cupcake recipe
  • Topping - serve over fruit or icecream
  • Icing - eg for a mudcake. Place cake on wire rack. Put rack over baking tin, then pour ganache over cake.
  • Chocolate mouse - After making the ganache, cool it at room temperature (don't refrigerate) then fold through some whipped cream, then refrigerate.
  • Frosting - pipe into a rosette on a Death Death By Chocolate cupcake. Top with a slice of chocolate bar (eg Mars bar, Toblerone)

Other notes & recipes from the course:
Basic Cupcake Mix - recipe
Death by Chocolate cupcake mix - recipe
Chocolate Ganache - recipe
Cream Cheese Frosting for cupcakes - recipe
Chocolate Truffles - recipe

Cream Cheese Frosting for cupcakes - recipe

Cream Cheese Frosting
270g Cream cheese
90g Unsalted butter, at room temperature
180g pure icing sugar (not the icing sugar that contains cornflour)

Using electric mixer, mix butter and cheese until light and creamy. Fold in sifted icing sugar by hand. (If you use the electric mixer the frosting will go runny). Add other flavouring and colouring as required.

Variation: Raspberry Swirl Frosting - defrost some raspberries, tip off excess moisture. Swirl raspberries through frosting using a spatula. This is yummy on top of lemon cupcakes, made with the Basic Cupcake recipe.

Other notes & recipes from the course:
Basic Cupcake Mix - recipe
Death by Chocolate cupcake mix - recipe
Chocolate Ganache - recipe
Cream Cheese Frosting for cupcakes - recipe
Chocolate Truffles - recipe

Basic Cupcake Mix - recipe

A recipe from the cupcake course I attended

Base Cupcake Mix

200ml vegetable oil
375g caster sugar
2 large eggs (59g size)
200g natural full-fat yoghurt (Reduced fat won't work!! You can use Sour Cream instead)
50ml lemon juice (or 50g passionfruit pulp, or 50ml orange juice)
300g self-raising flour

Mix together the oil, caster sugar and eggs until combined and sugar dissolves. Sift the flour and add to the 'wet mix' along with the yoghurt and juice. Mix until combined. The mixture can be used immediately or can be refrigerated for up to approximately 1 week. Bake in a moderate oven until mixture 'springs back' when touched. Approximate baking times:
- mini cupcakes: 13 minutes
- regular sized cupcakes: 23 minutes
- texas sized muffins: 35 minutes

Frost with Cream Cheese frosting or Chocolate Ganache.

* Add grated lemon, lime or orange zest.
* Add cinnamon
* Add cinnamon and zest
* Lemon zest with raspberries
* Place a berry eg raspberry in the bottom of each cupcake before adding batter.

* This recipe produces flatter cupcakes if batter is used immediately. Cakes rise more if the batter is left to sit before using.
* If using passionfruit, tinned passionfruit is best as the pips are softer.

Other notes & recipes from the course:
Basic Cupcake Mix - recipe
Death by Chocolate cupcake mix - recipe
Chocolate Ganache - recipe
Cream Cheese Frosting for cupcakes - recipe
Chocolate Truffles - recipe

Recipe - Spinach Pie

This recipe has been a family favorite for years. Original recipe is from the packaging of Antoniou Fillo Pastry, however I've modified it to make it lower in fat.

Spinach Pie
Serves 8
Freezes well

375g Fillo Pastry
1 packet frozen spinach (thawed & drained)
375g low-fat fetta cheese, chop in large chunks
1 bunch shallots, trim and chop roughly
2 medium onions
4 eggs
1/4 cup oil (original recipe called for 1/2 cup)
salt to taste (original recipe called for 1 teaspoon, which I find WAY too much)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Remove outer leaves of shallots, wash and trim.

I make entire pie filling in the food processor. Add chunks of all ingredients (excluding fillo pastry), whiz it up and put it into a large bowl. Once everything has been put through the food processor, mix it in the bowl to combine.

Layer half a packet of fillo pastry in a medium sized pie plate or baking tray. Place mixture onto pastry then fold in the overhanging ends of the pastry. Use remaining pastry to create a lid for the pie. If desired, brush top of pie with butter or oil. Bake in moderate oven for about 45 minutes. Test to see if pie is done by inserting a knife into the middle of the pie. If it is really runny, you'll need to cook it for longer.

Tip: cut into serving sized pieces and freeze individually for a quick & easy lunch

Menuplan Monday - 15th Dec

The plan for this week is to keep it quick and simple! Lots of salad and 'prepared ahead' things.

Cheese & Vegemite sandwiches
Meatloaf (at Robert's request)

Foccacia & Salad - base made in breadmaker. Topping will be cheese, zucchini, mushroom, & olives
Fiona's No Pastry Quiche - Tuna filling. This will be from my freezer as I made a double batch of quiche last time I made one.

Peanut Paste sandwiches & salad
BBQ Sausages, potato salad (pressure cooker) and green salad.

Toasted cheese & tomato sandwiches & salad
Corned beef, colcannon, steamed carrot, steamed peas

Cold corned beef & salad
BBQ rump steak, potato salad & tomato & corn salad

Baked beans on toast
Pan-fried fish with potato salad & green salad (leftovers from Friday).

Cold corned beef & salad
Spinach Pie - from the freezer as I doubled the batch last time I baked

I'll try and post some new recipes during the week. For more recipe ideas, see I’m an Organizing

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Death by Chocolate cupcake mix - recipe

Last night I went to a 3 hour cupcake course. I was expecting that the students would be 'hands on' with some cupcake decorating. However, the students sat and watched. It was excellent!! I feel like I learnt a lot in those 3 hours. The teacher was a pastry chef with over 20 years of experience.

Up until now I've always found cupcakes to be a pain. I always end up with a huge mess when I try and spoon cupcake mixture into the patty pans. Solution: Pipe the mixture into the patty pans. You can purchase large piping bags made entirely from plastic, which don't have any stitching or seams. They are a lot more hygienic than the stitched fabric bags that you see.

Anyway... here are my notes:

Death by Chocolate cup cake mix

This is an egg-free, dairy-free chocolate cupcake recipe and the uncooked mix keeps for up to 5 weeks in an air-tight container in the 'fridge.

300ml water
150ml vegetable oil (butter would dry out the cakes)
2 teaspoons vanilla flavour
1 teaspoon vinegar (helps to keep cakes moist)
250g caster sugar
250g plain flour
8g Bicarbonate of soda
60g Cocoa powder

Mix together the water,oil, vanilla, vinegar and caster sugar until combines and sugar dissolves. Sift the dry ingredients together and add to wet ingredients. Mix until combines. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1/2 an hour.

Note: Refrigerated mix, stored in an airtight container will keep for approx 5 weeks.

Pipe mix into patty pans then bake until cooked. (In fan forced oven, approx temp is 160C for 13 minutes).

Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting or Chocolate Ganache.

*Can make cakes of all sizes using the above recipe.
*You can add berries, alcohol etc to alter/enhance the flavour. If adding alcohol you'll need to reduce the water.
*Cakes rise the sooner they are baked. If you want flat cupcakes, then refrigerate mix for a few days prior to use.
* Cakes won't flop or drop if oven door is opened & closed during baking.

Other notes & recipes from the course:
Basic Cupcake Mix - recipe
Death by Chocolate cupcake mix - recipe
Chocolate Ganache - recipe
Cream Cheese Frosting for cupcakes - recipe
Chocolate Truffles - recipe

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY - Sunday

OUTSIDE MY WINDOW - The remains of our BBQ lunch with friends. Everything looks bright and sparkly as I've just cleaned the windows. It is a glorious day.

I AM THINKING - That I should wash the windows more frequently. It makes such a difference and is actually something that I enjoy doing.

I AM THANKFUL FOR - My family.

FROM THE KITCHEN - Tonight we plan on having another BBQ, using the leftovers from our BBQ lunch. Nice and easy.

I AM WEARING - Cream floral skirt and navy T-shirt which I made from an Ottobre pattern. The skirt isn't a great fabric, but a wonderful fit. I plan on making myself a pattern from this skirt.

I AM CREATING - My first patchwork quilt. This one will be for the kids dolls.

I AM GOING - Crazy with voices that shout instead of talk!

I AM READING - Pants for Any Body by Pati Palmer and Susan Pletsch. It is about modifying trouser patterns to achieve a good fit for your body.

I AM HOPING - For 5 minutes in the house by myself.

I AM HEARING - Crying children.

AROUND THE HOUSE - There is a lot of mess to be put away. It looks a lot worse than it is. This is on the agenda for tonight.

ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS - Silence and time to enjoy my own thoughts.

A FEW PLANS FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK - Christmas plans. Gifts for teachers. Christmas cards. Review the gift list and buy the things that are remaining. Design the interior for a handbag that I plan to make.

HERE IS A PICTURE THOUGHT I AM SHARING - Our Christmas tree, which the children loved decorating. As you can see it is thick with tinsel and ornaments from 3-foot down.

Friday, December 5, 2008

..if I had $600

I just ran into some of my old work colleagues at the shopping centre. For their Christmas Bonus, the boss had given each employee $600 to spend at a certain shopping centre in two hours. The staff had no warning that this was going to happen. Nice bonus! A shame I don't work there anymore.

My question to you: what would you do if you were given $600 and had only 2 hours in which to spend it. What would you buy?

I think my mouth would gape like a goldfish for a good 15 minutes before the brain would kick in. The shop that I would have ideally spent my money at wasn't in the shopping centre, so if I had been one of the luck employees, I would have attempted to have put the money in the bank at the shopping centre ... and then spent the money later as the downpayment on a new sewing machine. Or perhaps I would just have purchased a new sofa at the shopping centre ... Now that I've had a few hours to think about it I keep coming up with new idea.

What would you do?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Best Ever Bolognaise Sauce

Best Ever Bolognaise Sauce - modified
(from The Australian Women's Weekly Pasta Cookbook)

There are thousands of Bolognaise Sauce recipes out there, I know. Here is the one that my family love. I always hide extra vegetables in the sauce. What the kids don't know won't hurt them!!!

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 kg minced beef
2 x 410g cans tomatoes
1.5 cups water
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 small beef stock cubes (or omit and use homemade stock instead of the water)
1.5 teaspoons mixed herbs (original recipe called for 1 tsp oregano and 1/2 tsp marjoram)
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 heaped teaspoon of Sacla Italia Pesto (not in original recipe)
Finely chopped vegetables eg carrots, celery, spinach (optional)

Heat oil in pan, add onions and garlic, cook, stirring over low heat until onions are very soft. Add mince, cook stirring until well browned. Stir in undrained tomatoes, water, wine, paste, stock cubes, herbs, pesto, sugar and finely chopped vegetables. Bring to boil. Simmer uncovered for about 2 hours or until sauce is thickened; stirring occasionally. Serve with pasta and grated parmesan cheese, if desired.

Note: I've now adapted this recipe for the pressure cooker.

Note: Recipe corrected 21 January 09 to add Tomato Paste quantities.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Menuplan Monday

After having just been to a funeral, I really don't feel like planning a menu. However, the kids need feeding and I at a minimum I need to know what we are eating tonight.... so I may as well do a plan for the week!

Tonight: Fiona's No Pastry Quiche (freezer meal). I made a double batch of quiche last time I made one.

Tuesday: Buggered Lamb Chops - Normally made in the slow-cooker, but I'm going to convert the recipe for the pressure cooker. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday: Spaghetti Bol - I'll double or treble the recipe and make freezer meals from the surplus.

Thursday: Risotto - with ham & peas added

Friday: Sausages, potato salad (pressure cooker) and green salad.

Saturday: Pan-fried fish with potato salad & green salad (leftovers from Friday).

Sunday: Spinach pie - Will double the recipe and make a freezer meal.

I'll try and post some new recipes during the week. For more recipe ideas, see I’m an Organizing

A sad week

There are some truly amazing people on this earth. People who have a positive impact on everything they touch, people who have the ability to make anyone they speak to feel special. People who easily bring a smile to your face every time you think of them. People who always find the positive, who make the most of things even when circumstances are bad.

Today I attended the funeral of such a person.

A hole has been left in the world and also in my heart. R will always be remembered and with wonderful memories. I hope I can live my life in a similar way to how she did.

Tread gently on this earth and each day make the most of your time. Love those around you nconditionally and put a smile on the face of people you pass.

Peace be with you and your families.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Change of blog URL

Tonight (ie in 8 hours) I'm going to change the URL for this blog from to

Hope it doesn't affect anyone too much!

Fiona @ Feebeez

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Linked to by the Veggie Queen

My post on the Pressure Cooker vs Slow Cooker has been linked to by The Veggie Queen, who is a pressure cooking advocate and also a cooking teacher, Registered Dietitian and writer. Her goal is to get everyone to eat in a more green, sustainable and low-impact way -- more vegetables and vegetarian food, raw or quickly cooked in a pressure cooker.

The Veggie Queen also has a DVD, website .

Non-Chilli Con Carne

Non-Chilli Con Carne
(modified from recipe on tin of Masterfoods Red Kidney Beans)

Serves 4

440g red kidney beans, drained
2 tablespoons oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons freshly crushed garlic
500g minced beef
425g can crushed or diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
1/2 tsp cumin
Note: Original recipe included 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder, however I've removed this so that the kids will eat the meal!

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook until lightly browned. Add meat and cook until brown. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ottober 2/2006#1 t-shirt

Yesterday I completed my second attempt at Ottobre 2/2006#1. This time I made it up in a very good quality knit from Knit Wit. The only pattern modification I made was to lengthen the sleeves, other than that it is exactly the same as the navy trial t-shirt that I made earlier.

This fabric doesn't have as much stretch as the navy, and it make is very apparent that I should be using the next size up.

I'm really happy with how the v-neck turned out. I didn't struggle with the V like I did with the navy shirt. The only problem.... the white overlocking is just peeking out from under the self-binding. You can only see it if you are at the right angle, so I think it is still wearable. I certainly don't fancy unpicking the binding and reapplying.

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Christmas Cake in the pressure cooker - Part 2

A quick update on how the pressure-cooker Christmas Cake turned out.

From the same batch of cake batter I made a cake in the pressure cooker and also one in the oven. Interestingly, the pressure cooker cake has a much darker appearance. It also has a lot more moisture.

The pressure cooker cake worked out OK. The texture isn't what you'd expect of a Christmas Cake. It is more pudding-like. It is very moist and tasty. (We've been eating it as I wasn't sure if it was a success and I didn't want to risk it).

I'm not sure if I'll bake the cake in the pressure cooker again (I suppose I would if I was pressed for time). I will definitely marinate the fruit in the pressure cooker - that worked out really well and the smell in the kitchen was divine.

Menu Monday - 24th Nov

The freezer contains frozen lamb chops, rump steak, chicken breast, beef mince and beef sausages. Consequently the menu plan for this week is:

Grilled lamb chops, mashed potato (with hidden Brussels sprouts), corn-on-the-cob, and broccoli
Honey Mustard Chicken (pressure cooker)
Fan-fried rump steak with potato salad and green salad
Non-chilli Chilli Con Carne
Grilled sausages with potato salad and green salad
Fish cakes

Other menu ideas can be found at I'm An Organising Junkie.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

potential change of blog url

It annoys me that my blog name (Feebeez) and my blog URL aren't at all similar. Blogger will let me change the URL from to .... I just need to know how much it will bother my readers.

If you don't want me to make this change, please comment, otherwise in a week or so I'll be changing the URL. (I'll warn you before it happens).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tomato Topped Macaroni Cheese (microwave)

Tomato Topped Macaroni Cheese
from The Women's Weekly Microwave Cookbook

60g butter
2 onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup tasty cheese, grated
6 cups cooked macaroni (2 cups dry macaroni = 6 cups cooked)
2 tomatoes thinly sliced
1/2 cups grated cheese (extra)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Combine butter & onions in a shallow dish, cook on HIGH for 5 minutes or until onions are tender. Add flour, cook on HIGH 1 minute.

Blend in milk, cook on HIGH 3 minutes or until mixture boils and thickens, stirring occasionally. Add cheese & macaroni.

Pour into deep dish, top with tomato and combined extra cheese and Parmesan cheese. Cook on HIGH 6 minutes or until heated through.

Note: is nice with a teaspoon of mustard blended in at the same time as the flour.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

While the cat's away....

Ruby never sleeps during the day unless she is sick. However, today little Snow White (she is in costume) has passed out on Roberts bed and is snoring loudly. If only her little sister would do the same thing! Unfortunately Laura has decided that she is NOT going to sleep.

I find it so amusing that Ruby will only sleep during the day if she can pinch her brother's bed.

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Christmas Cake - in the Pressure Cooker - Part 1

I am being a bit experimental with this year's Christmas Cake. That's right - I'm going to make it in the pressure cooker. Miss Vickie's Big Book of Pressure Cooker Recipes devotes a number of pages to Fruitcakes and she indicates that Fruitcakes cooked by the method she describes will be moist and divine. "A genuine fruitcake is sinfully rich, moist, delicious, and studded with a cornucopia of plump, naturally sweet (not candied!) dried fruits soaked in spirits and mixed with complex spices, and there's not a green candied thing in the lot". It is quite an interesting read as she goes into details on how to 'feed' the fruitcake once it has been cooked (regardless of how it was cooked). This is something I've always wanted to know but have never had the information. I should have Googled it a long time ago.

Today I prepared the fruit for the fruitcake. I've "super marinated" it by putting the dried fruit, port, and cheesecloth bag of spices into the pressure cooker for 2 minutes. It certainly smells yummy! Tonight I will cook the cake. Fingers crossed that it will work out OK

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

7 Minute Risotto

7 Minute Risotto (From Pressure Perfect, by Lorna Sass)
Serves 4 as an entrée and 6 as a side dish

This is such an easy Risotto. It only takes 4 minutes at pressure, and then requires stirring for approximately 3 minutes.1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup finely chopped onions
1½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
3½ to 4 cups Homemade Chicken Stock
1 teaspoon salt (optional, depending on how salty the Stock is)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more if needed
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Note: To the above, you can add various extras, such as meat and vegetables. I particularly like adding Butternut Pumpkin. Items that need a reasonable amount of cooking should be added just before sealing the lid. Items requiring little cooking (eg peas) should be added after depressurising.

Heat oil in cooker. Add onions and cook over high heat for 1 min, stirring often. Stir in the rice, taking care to coat it with the oil.

Stir in the wine (careful you don’t get spattered). Cook over high heat until rice has absorbed the wine. Stir in 3½ cups stock and salt (if using). Scrape up any rice sticking to the bottom of the cooker.

Lock lid in place. Over high heat bring to high pressure. Reduce heat just enough to maintain pressure and cook for 4 minutes. Turn off the heat. Quick-release by setting the cooker under cold running water. Remove the lid.

Set cooker over medium heat and stir vigorously. (The risotto will look soupy at this point). Cook uncovered, stirring every minute or so, until the mixture thickens and the rice is tender but still chewy (around 3 – 5 mins). If mixture becomes too try before the rice is done, stir in the remining ½ cup stock. The finished risotto should be slightly runny as it will continue to thicken as it sits on the plate.

Turn off heat. Stir in cheese, salt & pepper to taste, and the parsley.

Pressure Cooker vs Slow Cooker

I adore my pressure cooker and I much prefer it over my slow cooker. I use my pressure cooker once or twice a week, while the slow cooker gets used only once a month or so.

I generally find the pressure cooker more versatile. Here are the the advantages that I see it has:

a) There isn't a minimum of food that needs to be cooked. You do however need a minimum of liquid. For my very large pressure cooker it is 1 cup.

b) You can brown the food directly in the pressure cooker before cooking, thereby reducing cleanup.

c) You can cook an amazing range of food in it. Obviously there are the traditional stews, but you can also do risotto, cheesecake, custard, and Christmas cake. Risotto is brilliant ... it takes about 7 minutes of cooking and only about 3 minutes of stirring. I'll be posting a risotto recipe soon.

d) You can cook multiple items at the same time. For example, to make a curry I put the curry ingredients in the bottom of the pressure cooker, then I balance a bowl of rice & water on top of the curry. The two take the same amount of time to cook and aren't mixed together during the cooking process.

e) I find the pressure cooker easier to clean than the slow cooker.

f) You can use the pan from the pressure cooker for other things where you need a really big pot - like jam making.

g) I prefer the taste of the things I make in the pressure cooker. It may just be the recipes I am using, but I've had some really big disasters in the slow cooker (and they've always involved a large quantity of food).

h) I like not having to plan so far in advance to cook my food. Sometimes I'm not organised enough to get the slow cooker on in the morning, and sometimes I'm not home at the right time to turn it on. I can't find a reference to double check this ... but I seem to remember that something that take 6 to 8 hours to cook in the slow cooker would take 20 mins to an hour in the pressure cooker.

For further reading, including info on the correct and safe usage of pressure cookers, and how to select a pressure cooker, see: Miss Vickie's. Also see The Pressure Cooker Centre. I'm not affiliated with either of these sites.

As to recipe books, I'd recommend both. :
- Miss Vickie's Big Book or Pressure Cooker Recipes, but Vickie Smith
- Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass (I don't think I've had a single recipe from this book that I disliked)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Homemade Chicken Stock

Homemade Chicken Stock
based on a recipe from Miss Vickie's "Big Book of Pressure Cooker Recipes"

1kg bones
500g root vegetables, coarsely chopped
3 cups aromatic vegies (eg onions, garlic, shallots, celery stalks & leaves, parsley, leeks)
500g leafy vegetables
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorns

Toss everything into the pressure cooker and cover with water. WARNING - be careful not to overfill the pressure cooker. It should be less than 3/4 full. Lock lid in place and bring to pressure. Once at pressure, reduce heat to the lowest possible setting whilst maintaining pressure. Keep at this setting for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and let pressure cooker naturally cool down and depressurise. Once cooker has depressurised, strain stock and then refrigerate the liquid for a few hours. This lets the fat solidify on the surface. Skim fat off stock, divide stock into portions and freeze.

Stock is great to use in soup or risotto.

Menu Planning Monday - 17th November

Last week, I was focusing on restocking the freezer and I managed to put three or four meals in there. I did that by doubling 'freezer friendly' recipes that I made during the week.

I was very grateful for the freezer meals as I've spent the last 24 hours in bed vomiting with gastro. Actually, planning the next week of meals is the last thing I want to be doing, but I'm going to plough on.

I've also put up a post Pressure Cookers vs Slow Cookers.

Corned Beef, mashed potato & green veg
Grilled stead & salad
HomemadeChicken Stock (in pressure cooker)
7 Minute Risotto (in pressure cooker)
Macaroni Cheese (microwaved)
Homemade Pizza & Salad
Curried Sausages
Fish Cakes
Lamb Chops & Salad

As I did last week, I'll try and upload some recipes to my blog during the week, so stay tuned. Also check out I'm An Organising Junkie for other menu ideas.

Friday, November 14, 2008

photos - Ottobre 2/2007 #12 skirt

I completed the skirt last night.

It was fantastic to sew. Went together like a breeze and was incredibly quick. There is no facing or waistband - just a petersham ribbon. Gave it a nice finish and really speeded up the sewing.

The fit isn't brilliant. As I mentioned yesterday I had to make the waist 2 sizes smaller than the hips and THEN take out an extra 5cm. Even then the skirt is a bit big in the waist. Kind of baggy between my waist and my saddlebags. The degree of curve to the hip made the zip hard to apply and it doesn't sit that well. Next time I'll do a seam at centre back and put the zip there.

Overall I'm pretty happy and I'll make the skirt again with some modifications for fit.

Edited to correct the design number: The skirt is from Ottobre 02/07 #12 (not #10 as my original post stated).

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ottobre 2/2007 #12 straight skirt

I'm gearing up to sew a pair of trousers from Ottobre ... but I am starting off by sewing a straight skirt so that I can work out my basic 'Ottobre adjustments' first. Last night I cut out began sewing the straight skirt from Ottobre issue 2/2007. Despite cutting the waist 2 sizes smaller than the hips, I still had to take out an extra 5cm from the waist.

I'm really happy with how the skirt is progressing. I'm making it from a soft corduroy, which I grabbed from Textile Traders for $2AUD/metre (reduced from $7.99). The print on the fabric is "OK" and the texture/weight feels perfect for the pattern. As this skirt is being used as a 'muslin' I haven't used my favorite stash fabric.

I'll put some photos up tomorrow once I've charged the camera battery :)

Edited to correct the design number: the skirt is from Ottobre 02/07 design #12 (not #10!!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Slow Cooked Lamb Chops in Worcestershire Sauce

I very fast and simple low-fat dish that the kids and adults love. Lovely flavours of sweet and sour.

Note: This recipe was provided to me with the name "Slow Cooked Buggered Lamb Chops". I have altered the name due to some of the meanings of the word 'Buggered'. I'd also like to point out that in Australia, the term has both positive and negative meanings and I'm sure the original recipe name didn't refer to sodomy.

Slow Cooked Lamb Chops in Worcestershire Sauce

1 kg lean lamb (I use lamb rump steak or diced lamb)
1 single onion, sliced
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

Put chops and onion in the slow-cooker. In a jug, combine the remaining ingredients and the pour them into the slow-cooker. Cook for approximately 8 hours on lowest heat setting.

You can adjust the quantity of sauce, depending on how much meat there is. Simply use equal quantities of each of the sauce ingredients.

Best served with mashed potato.

self-drafted tube skirt disaster

I've been doing a bit of sewing lately, but am churning out a few disasters.

I had a large amount of bitter brown synthetic lycra in my stash. I don't love the fabric, but it is a great base colour for my wardrobe. I decided a quick tube skirt was in order.

Cut a rectangle of fabric:
- The length is the finished length plus an allowance for hem and elastic casing.
- Width is your widest part (hips), plus 5cm ease, plus seam allowance.
- Remember to remove the selvages prior to cutting the rectangle. My disaster involved leaving the selvages on when I cut the rectangle. I then removed the selvages and ended up with a skirt that was too tight. I've managed to find a new home for the skirt, so I haven't had to throw it in the bin.
- The skirt has one seam. You may want to leave a slit at the bottom for walking space. You can wear the split at the centre back, or on the side seam.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about the Ottobre sewing I've been doing. I've got a few fitting issues as my waist is 2 sizes smaller than my hips.

Monday, November 10, 2008

free t-shirt folding machine

I can't remember which blog I was reading when I came across This video, detailing how to construct a cardboard t-shirt folding machine. I am going to make one on the weekend!

I also found this very quick method of manually folding a t-shirt. The second video shows it step-by-step so you can work out what on earth is going on!

Glazed Lentil Beef Loaf

Glazed Lentil Beef Loaf (modified)
From "FoodCents" from the Health Department of Western Australia

Serves 8
Preparation time: 10 minutes (plus 1 hour soaking time)
Cooking time: 1 hour

1/3 cup brown lentils, dry (1 cup cooked)
500g lean mince
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 egg, eaten
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup low-fat milk
Sprig of fresh rosemary, wood removed
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Add boiling water to lentils, cover and stand for 1 hour. Drain.
Mix together lentils, mince, breadcrumbs, tomato sauce, egg, onion, milk & rosemary.
Place in a lightly greased loaf tin and bake for 40 minutes at 180C. mix brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce together and spread over loaf using a knife. Bake for a further 20 minutes and serve.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fish Chowder

Fish Chowder - serves 4
Freezes well

1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1/2 cup frozen sweet corn
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 cup milk
1 cup water
425g tin tuna (in brine or water) , drained
1 tablespoon chicken stock powder

Place water, onion, celery, carrot and sweet corn into a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes.

In another saucepan, melt butter. Remove from heat and stir in the plain flour. return to heat and stir until sizzling. Remove from heat and gradually stir in milk. when combined, stir in contents of other saucepan. Add chicken stock powder. Bring back to the boil, stirring frequently until thickened. Stir in drained tuna and heat through.

Menu Planning Monday

I used to do menu planning, and then got out of the habit. However, after a couple of weeks of struggling with last minute dinner ideas, I've decided to begin menu planning again.

Here is the plan for the week. I also need to restock the freezer, so where possible I'll be doubling recipes and freezing them. All the links take you to recipes from my recipe collection.

fish chowder
No Pastry Quiche - and salad
spinach pie - with mashed 'golden potato', peas, and cauliflower
Slow Cooked Buggered Lamb Chops
- served with mashed potato and broccoli
Glazed Lentil Beef Loaf - with roast potato, pumpkin, parsnip and steamed peas
non-chilli con carne - served on rice with a side salad
pan fried snapper fillets & veg

For more great menu ideas, head on over to I’m an Organizing

Friday, November 7, 2008

Replacement timer for my Tefal Clipso Control Pressure Cooker

My Clipso Control pressure cooker includes a very handy timer, which automatically starts 'counting down' the moment my pressure cooker gets to the correct pressure. Unfortunately the timer doesn't like water. It especially doesn't like having chicken stock poured over it. I tried that two days ago. *sob*

The Pressure Cooker Centre priced a replacement at $99.95. OUCH!! They also suggested drying it with a hairdryer, and then leaving it under the 'fridge for a couple of days and hoping. (The fridge removes moisture from the air).

Happy news of the day is that the fridge treatment seems to have worked. The timer is now fine!!!!

'Twas a magpie

Update on the nesting honeyeaters:

It was a magpie that raided the nest. It came back again whilst I was washing the evening dishes. It had another go at the nest, but I don't think it got anything. The honeyeaters don't appear to have returned to the nest since the first incident.

A shame really, but it has also been very interesting to see the nest raided.

I did get up on a stepladder to have a look at the nest, but I was still too low to see into the nest. I am sure that any remaining chicks or eggs would have perished by now.

Yahoo Groups frustration

In one of the Yahoo Groups that I use, there is another person who posts under the name Fiona H. They were in the group before me, so I need to change my nickname ... or author name... or whatever Yahoo Groups calls it. Ages ago I made such a change and I can't remember how I did it. I think Yahoo have changed things as it certainly wasn't this hard previously.

I have literally spent a number of hours trying to change my name. I still can't do it! Yahoo seems to have so many different names/nicknames in different locations.

Please please please can someone help me????


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fiona's No Pastry Quiche

What are you having for dinner?

Tonight we're having my "No Pastry Quiche", which is a family favorite. As the name suggests, it doesn't use pastry. Instead, flour is mixed into the egg mixture, which settles a bit during cooking, creating a 'base' for the quiche.

No Pastry Quiche
Freezes well
Fast preparation

60g cheese (or to taste)
meat eg bacon, ham, chicken, tuna
4 spring onions, chopped
1/2 capsicum, chopped

Egg mixture:
3 large eggs
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1 1/2 cups milk
salt & pepper to taste
fresh parsley, chopped, to taste

Spray quiche dish with cooking spray. Scatter filling ingredients over base of dish.

In a jug/bowl, whisk components of the egg mixture together.

Pour egg mixture into quiche dish. Bake in a moderate oven (180c) for 40 to 45 minutes.

I modify the filling ingredients based on what is on hand. Pumpkin or zucchini makes a nice addition!

Lessons on life

About 3 weeks ago a couple of honey eaters decided to build a nest in a vine directly opposite the kitchen window. The nest is only about 2 metres away from the sink. The brave birds selected this nesting spot while we were away on holidays. I don't think they realised quite how much human traffic is normal (our washing line is directly below the nest). They have also coped with hubby using the electric hedge trimmers on the vine...

When we first noticed the nest it was in the very early stages of construction. You could really see the 'foundation' sticks that they based the nest on. It has been fascinating to watch. I've tried to peek into the nest to see how many eggs were laid, however it is too high up.

Over the last couple of days the activity at the nest has changed and I've seen more of both parents, rather than just the one sitting on the nest. This has made me suspicious that the eggs might have hatched.

DISASTER has now struck the brave birds. While we were eating lunch we saw a magpie or a mudlark raid the nest a fly off with something in its beak. (Hubby had a good look at the bird and always gets confused between mudlarks and magpies). I'm not sure if it stole an egg or a chick. I'm not sure if there is anything left in the nest, and if the honeyeaters will return to the nest. The kids saw it all happen too, which of course let to a torrent of WHY questions.

Fingers crossed that there are still some eggs/chicks and that the honeyeaters will return. I've really been looking forward to watching the little family grow up. It has certainly made washing dishes a little less boring!

Edited to add: It was definitely a magpie. It just made another attempt at stealing from the nest, but didn't appear to find anything. As yet the honeyeaters haven't returned...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trial t-shirt

Just completed Ottober 2/2006 #1 v-necked t-shirt. My measurements don't slot nicely into a certain Ottobre size, so I made a size 42 as a trial. Fit needs some adjustment:
- sleeve is a bit tight
- sleeve needs more depth
- shoulder seam is correct length, however bodice needs to be narrower between shoulder and start of bust
- need a smidge more room over the bust, but going up to the next size would be too much.

I should have cleaned the mirror before taking these photos!

First time I've sewn a v-neck, and I had to redo the point of the v three times before deciding 'enough was enough'. After trying it on, I have to say that I'm really happy with how the neckline turned out. Next time I'll leave some chalk marks on the centre-front line to help centre the v.

While I was stitching it together, I was also concerned the v-neck would be too high. It is a lot higher than my RTW t-shirts, however I certainly don't dislike it! I'll definitely make more shirts with the v at this level.

Here is a sneak peak of what I'll be working on over the next few weeks... The first 5 fabrics will be turned into t-shirts for myself. The solids are 100% cotton knit. The stripes are polyester knits. The last fabric is 100% cotton drill which I'll make into a skirt or trousers. I'll probably do a skirt first to check my Ottobre sizing BEFORE embarking on a pair of trousers.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008


We've inroduced some new home-made games. Ruby (4.5 years) has been enjoying them. The other kids (3.5yrs and 2 yrs) have been having fun playing with dice and counters.

Alphabet Bingo - using an 'alphabet dice', which came from our Scategories set. I've been using Bingo cards printed from: I'm planning on making some new Bingo cards, which aren't in alphabetical order.

Numbers - matching digits to dots- Using a 6 sided dice (with dots on it), we rolled the dice, counted the dots and then found the correct digit on our printout from Ruby then coloured in that chicken. She loved this activity and did it a couple of times.

Ruby has also spent a huge amount of time practicing colouring, cutting and gluing. She has been making and dressing Paper Dolls. I printed the dolls and their clothes from:

Friday, September 26, 2008

confectionary displays

With childhood obesity so much of a concern, it really bugs me that chemists place all of their confectionery around their service counter right at kids eye level and touch level. A Chemist/Pharmacy is where you go to get things to help your health. They aren't allowed to sell cigarettes. I think there should be legislation to prevent them from placing confectionery in a location so appealing to kids.

I am of course saying this after dealing with two tantruming kids (and no pram to strap them into) whilst trying to fill a script. The whole scene ended with Robert manging to rip open a chocolate and me having to pay for the blasted thing. I should probably have made a stand and refused to pay for it. But then .. was the ripped chocolate their fault or was it due to my lack of control over my kids? Ok ... we should have split the cost. It still makes me mad mad mad!

Shaving foam & paint

Today we did some "marbling" using shaving foam and paint. Here is what you need:
- baking tray
- shaving foam
- liquid paints, such as poster paint or acrylic
- something to stir the foam with eg stick
- squeege (window cleaning tool)

1. Fill baking tray with shaving foam, then drizzle paint over the foam.
2. Stir and swirl the paint into the foam.

3. Put paper on top of foam and gently smooth and pat the paper so that the foam sticks to it. (We found printer paper works the best).
4. Peel off the paper. The foam and paint is left sticking to the paper.

5. Use the squeege to scrape off the foam. The paint is left behind making a pretty picture. It makes nice wrapping paper.

Cleanup is pretty easy as everything is already soapy from the shaving foam. The 2-year-old loved the stirring for this activity. I think it would have kept her occupied for quite a while. The older kids were excited too.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Solo parenting

Hubby is away for work for 6 nights, so I'm doing the parenting thing alone for about a week. So far the kids have been amazing. All 3 have been playing well together and Ruby is being really helpful.

Robert is the most upset by his Dad's absence. There were some tears on the first evening, and then when he woke up he announced "I had a really long sleep so Dad will be home soon!". I've been telling them that Dad will be home in x sleeps, so it seems Robert thought if he slept longer then more sleeps would pass and Dad would appear.

Today I managed to take all 3 swimming at the pool. Robert had a lesson and Ruby, Laura and myself played in the shallow section. They I dried off Robert and Ruby, stuck them in the pram with copious amounts of breakfast cereal to nibble on and books to read. While they ate and read Laura and I did her swimming lesson. I'm still stunned that I pulled it off and that the big kids were mostly happy to sit. Large amounts of food definitely helped...

While Hubby is away I've been spending the evenings sewing. I'm making a simple off white T-shirt for Ruby and I'm making it more interesting with an applique. Photos later as Hubby has the camera....

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


...update on our health situation. This morning Laura has croup, I have a sinus infection (which I've suspected for a while, but now I'm *sure*), and Robert has his chest infection. Ruby is also coughing, but I suspect at this stage it is just a cold.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

dieting, baking, illness & toilet training

Dieting and baking don't mix..... I've been on a diet - have lost 8kg, so have been doing really well. However, over the last few weeks I've had a desire to bake. Unfortunately this has coincided with a desire to eat baked goods!!! I think I'll have to stop baking until I uncover some willpower.

Over the last few weeks the kids and I have made:
* Cinnamon Buns from scratch
* Snickerdoodle biscuits
* Bread (lots of it) - dough made in the breadmaker and then loaves oven baked
* Pizza
* Foccacia
* Banana cake
* Banana and Carrot Cake
* Chocolate cake
* Marmalade
* Chocolate custard
* Vanilla custard
* Creamed rice (aka rice pudding)
* Plain scones

Yummo. We have been productive. Robert in particular like to bake and often asks if we can make something.

On another note, I'm sad to report that Robert is rather ill. He's been sick for 3 days with a fever and a cough that makes you cringe. Took him to the Dr today and it turns out he has some kind of chest infection. We were given antibiotics and strict instructions to take him to the Emergency Department at the children's hospital if his temperature didn't reduce during the afternoon. Poor little guy, he feels miserable but is being very brave.

We also have some wonderful news on the toilet training front. Robert hasn't had an accident in about 2 weeks and is now telling us when he needs to go to the toilet. Yeehah!! This seems to be the direct result of us giving him a sticker for each toilet attempt, and then periodically letting him select a 'lucky dip'. Our household is a lot more relaxed. It is lovely. Not to mention the reduction in washing and the nicer aroma of the house.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I am working on a new shirt for Ruby (Ottobre 04/2008 #11, size 110, modified so the sleeves are one piece). I've used fold-over-elastic (FOE) for the neck binding. It is the first time I've used FOE, and it seems to have worked quite well. Very quick to do.

The Oops occurred while I was attaching the sleeves to the shirt. I completed one seam and then realised that the left needle on my overlocker had jumped out of the tension dial. Result: right-side of the fabric has a "ladder" effect, similar to the reverse side of a flat-lock. I poked and prodded at the seam and decided to use the effect as a 'feature'. I then did the other sleeve and side-seams with the same effect.

Now I'm not so sure. I probably should unpick the lot and start again. Part of me says 'no, it is fine ... it looks like it is meant to be that way' ..... and the other half of me is cursing my stupidity for not unpicking the initial error immediately.

I might take a photo tonight and post it so I can get other opinions.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My First Sewing Book

I am quite excited ... the Winky Cherry sewing books (aimed at ages 5 yrs up) have arrived. See for details. The books are published by PalmerPletch. I have some brilliant sewing books authored by Patti Palmer and ??? Pletch, so have very high hopes for the Winky Cherry books.

Of the books available, I ordered "My First Sewing Book - Hand Sewing", "My First Embroidery Book" and "My First Doll Book". The material indicates that a 5 year-old would take about a year to master the "My First Sewing Book". In "My First Sewing Book", the child is taught an overcast stitch, which they use to create a stuffed toy. Once they've mastered that they then move on to the Embroidery Book and then the Doll Book.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Toilet training

The ongoing saga of toilet training... The problems that we had with Ruby now seem to be repeating with Robert.

Robert has been in jocks since late February. He has self-toileted sporadically in the past. However, at the moment we are at a complete standoff. He won't take himself to the toilet. Any suggestion that he may need to go is met with a very defiant "I don't need to", even if he really does. Every day when he has his 'rest time' he does a poo in his jocks. We've tried coaxing him. We've tried growling. We've tried sticker rewards etc etc etc

When we were going through this with Ruby (who would wet her knickers 6 times a day), I sought advice from a Child Health Nurse who specialises in continence issues. Her suggestion worked with Ruby, so we are taking that approach with Robert. The approach involves:
- increasing fluid intake (the bladder needs to get 'full' to strengthen the message from the bladder to the brain).
- ignoring accidents. No comments. No flinching/sighing etc. Just cleanup and get on with other things.
- sticker chart and praise for any move in the right direction, however small.
- reinforce the sticker chart by providing another reward after x number of stickers have been earned. Our extra reward involves a lucky dip.

We've been doing this for a week now. Progress is slow and it is hard not to be impatient. I think there was a slight glimmer of hope at 'rest time' today. He wet his jocks, but on my suggestion managed to get the poo in the toilet.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fe2h2o - How do you do it??

Fe2h2o, a question about homeschooling for you. (Well, multiple questions if you have the time...)

How do you fit it into your day? How do you keep Bilby entertained whilst educating Puggle? How do you structure your day ... obviously flexibly ... but which components do you try to fit into each day?

We're getting a lot of challenging behaviour at the moment, some of which I am sure is due to boredom. Plus I am feeling that I'm not teaching the kids much (other than cooking and cleaning). I am trying to work out how on earth I can get more structure into our days whilst staying on top of the housework.

I am also trying desperately to get some routines into place so that the kids are contributing to the clean-up and not just the mess-up!!!

Sorry about all the questions - I can imagine how busy you are and how tired you are too!!! How is cygnet going. Hopefully giving you sufficient sleep....?

Monday, August 11, 2008

A new skirt for Ruby

Here is the new skirt which I completed on the weekend. As you can see, it is a bit big in the waist. I might add some elastic to make it more immediately wearable.

I'm very happy with how the skirt turned out. I'll definitely be making it again.

Pattern Description: Ottobre 01/2008 #13 "Misty Skirt"
Fully lined tiered skirt gathered into a waistband. Closure is an invisible zip and press-stud. The middle tier is gathered at both the top and bottom of the tier.

Sizing: I made size 110. Ottobre uses European sizing. A size 110 is designed for a 110cm tall child. Ruby is only 102cm tall, however the size 104 shirt (worn in the photo) was a bit too short and a bit tight ... hence my decision to make the skirt in size 110.

Does the completed project look like the pattern drawing/photo? Yes

How were the instructions: OK. Was a little confusing when attaching the lining to the skirt.

Fabric used: Cotton from Spotlight

Any changes: Next time around I will modify it by removing the zipper and making the waist elasticated.

Likes/dislikes: Love it. Very girly.

Would you do it again / Would you recommend it? Yes

Monday, July 28, 2008

The bird shirt

Another Ottobre Design pattern. This one is 04/2008 #11. I made it in a size 104, but think Ruby would have been better with the size 110. The size 104 is exposing quite a bit of tummy if she lifts her arms up, plus it is quite snug in the tummy.

I'm not that happy with the fabric I used for the bird. The pink on the bird blends a bit too much with the shirt. However, the intention is to self-draft a skirt in the same fabric as the bird. I hope to do that over the next week or so.

Ruby has given it a big thumbs up by wearing it for 3 days in a row and refusing offers of other clothing. I'm going to have to sneak it into the washing machine tonight.

The shirt introduced a number of new skills for me. This is the first time I've:
- machine embroidered
- done applique
- self-bound a neckline.

The applique/embroidery went pretty well. The only change I'd made would be to baste the stabiliser and soluble stuff rather than attaching them to the shirt with pins.

I've now made 3 Ottobre things and I have to say I love the magazine and patterns. The tracing off is relatively easy to do. I've been adding seam allowances as I cut out the pattern using my Olfa cutter and 'seam gauge thingy', which lets you cut a certain distance from the pattern edge. I am preferring this way of cutting over using scissors. The instructions aren't too sketchy either ... although you do need to read all of the instructions before you make up the garment.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Knit Gauge

I've been organising my fabric stash by creating an index card for each fabric, attaching a swatch of fabric to the card, noting meterage. I also want to note percentage of stretch for knit fabrics, and wasn't sure how to calculate the stretch. Previously I've used the 'Pick a Knit' ruler to assess fabric suitability, however that only helps me with a specific pattern.

I've found a great explanation on how to calculate the percentage of stretch here: on The Sewing Divas blog. What a great site - lots of helpful information.

Ottobre 3/2008 #18 "China Grass Dress"

This is my version of the "China Grass Dress" from Ottober Design Issue 3/2008. I think it is design #18. The original design included a yoke (which would have been sewn in white), however I merged the yoke with the bodice.

It was pretty quick and easy to make. The bodice is fully lined and it has an invisible zipper in the back. I did find the bodice insturctions a little sketcy. After the bodice and lining are turned right-side out, you must then complete the seam from the notch to the hem.

This is the first invisible zip I have completed. Once I got my head around it, it wasn't too bad. The plastic Invisible Zipper Foot I found would not fit my 40-year-old Elna Supermatic. However, I found another foot in my Elna stash which had two grooves on the front of it and it guided the zipper perfectly and did a wonderful job. The only error was not aligning the top of the zipper with the top of the dress. Consequently I've also had to sew on a hook and eye at the top CB.

Ruby is delighted and immediately went into 'twirl and bounce' mode.

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Leggo mayhem

As a couple of very special rewards the two bigger kids each earned a tiny leggo kit on the weekend. As you can see ... Dad had a huge amount of fun too. Since construction they've been rebuilt a couple of times and Ruby has started to refer to the insturctions to try and work out where to put things.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Completed Jeans

As you can see, I've completed B's jeans. Overall I'm pretty happy with them. I did have some trouble with my machine with the bar-tacks and topstitching tension, but I think I've worked out how to improve things for future projects.
As to the fit: The are a bit big and the style is very baggy with huge pockets. I didn't put on the belt loops as B never wears belts. The smallest size available was a 98, which I made and then shortened the legs by about 11cm. (B is really a size 92 with extra short legs). I modified the waistband to make the waist adjustable. (Added two button hole openings to the inside waistband and inserted 'maternity elastic' type stuff.) Next time I make them I think I'll redraft the pockets and make them smaller.
B's reaction to the jeans wasn't favourable. He wanted to take them off right away and put something else on. Hopefully he will grow to like them!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Zip is in!

Tonight I finished inserting the zip.

I'm not that happy with my topstitching of the back pockets. I should have ripped it out and redone it, however I decided not to as I've put his entire project down to a 'learning experience'. I also had an issue with the tension for the topstitching. I've resolved that now and the most recent topstitching is looking a lot better.

The pockets have some odd detailing, which I'd overlooked when I selected the pattern. There are four tucks on each back pocket. The tucks near the CB seam open upwards and the tucks on the sideseams open downwards. Initially I didn't like the look, however it is growing on me.

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Black Jeans

The Ottobre Desing jeans (Issue 3/2008 "Black Jeans") that I am making for B are going to test me. a) I haven't sewed trousers/pockets/zips in living memory and the Ottobre directions aren't very wordy and don't have pictures illustrating what is required. b) I've never used Ottobre before and I think it will take a couple of projects to become familiar with 'how they do things. I think I've selected a rather challenging project to begin with. Perhaps I should put the "Black Jeans" to one side and select a simpler Ottober item as my first project.

The process I have worked through so far:
1) trace off pattern pieces
2) add seam allowances (see below for lessons learned)
3) cut out fabric

Adding seam allowances was my first learning curve. a) Initially I tried using a compass ... run the point of the compass along the stitching line and have the compass' pencil draw in the seam allowance. Great theory, however the pencil wasn't dark enough on my pattern (made from interfacing). b) I contemplated using my seam gauge to measure and mark the seam allowance, and decided there had to be a quicker way to do it. c) Finally I used the low-tech approach and joined two pencils together with an elastic band. This has given me a narrow seam allowance, but I think it will be fine. It certainly was a fast way to add the seam allowance. However, one must be careful to hold the pencils at the same angle otherwise the distance between the stitching line and seam allowance line vary. I may try this method again - but at the initial tracing stage, so that I both trace the pattern and add seam allowance at the same time.
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