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.
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