Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas!

We are off on holiday in a couple of hours! Yeah can't wait! All the presents are wrapped and we are almost packed. We are spending a couple of nights in a cabin for a short family holiday, and then are off to Gisborne to spend Christmas with my extended family, which I am very excited about, although I am sad that my sister and her family won't be there as she has just had a baby.

The Christmas ornament draw is done and dusted, and there have been some amazing creations shared. Here are some of them:

Pietta created these:

Leigh created these. Check out the gorgeous lace:

My friend Pip created these beaded angels:

And she took so much care with the wrapping! In fact lots of people did ( I am ashamed to say I wasn't one of them!)

My cousin Holly made these cute buntings:

And my friend Ang made these stars. They look even better in real life!

Monique made this cute heart, Cara the wool angel, and my friend Susan the doily ornament, which has a pretty bead in the centre you can't see very clearly.

My Mum made the heart on a square background and Sandra made the sweet red and white heart.

Mia and I also made these, fimo hearts (which I wasn't that impressed with - too shiny) and woven decorations.

So nice receiving little packages in the post! I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas and New Years break. That you eat too much, spend time with loved ones and get a well deserved break. Thanks so much to all those who participated in the ornament swap and I will be holding onto your email addresses to see if you want to participate next year!

I am taking a break from blogging until mid-January. The last couple of weeks has been very hectic and I have no back-up projects, so I am taking a break to relax and hopefully to get some new years projects on the go!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Garden update

Shelling peas (They always seem to be doing this in novels based in the southern USA)

Eating the peas before they could get in the bowl (she loves eating these and I love that she loves to go into the garden and get a pile of pods to open and pick the peas from!)

Multi-coloured beetroot and baby carrots from the garden ready to get roasted.

Add some thyme (from the garden), balsalmic vinegar, brown sugar, olive oil, almonds, kumara and broccoli (not from the garden) and roast - yum!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pillowcase "twirling" skirt

With the countdown to Christmas on, I am trying to complete all my gift projects! When I asked my friend Susan what her daughter Skye (my god-daughter) needed, Susan said that she was really into "twirly" skirts. I found a good tutorial and a calculator on how long to cut each layer of the skirt which was really useful.

This is my second attempt, I didn't like the fabric combination of the first, but I really like this one which was made from fabric strips taken from 4 pillowcases. I intend on making Mia an identical one, but probably not until next summer.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lizzy Dress

Life has been quite hectic here, and finding time to blog let alone sew has been difficult! I finished this dress quite a while ago, but just got round to putting the buttons on. It is the same pattern as Mia's lollipop dress, minus the round pockets. The pattern is very easy to sew, and produces a really cute dress that is good for both summer, and over tights and a top in winter. If you haven't done much sewing then check out the ottobre website, its in the summer 2011 edition.

This one is for a friend's daughter's 2nd birthday. I really like the colour blocking of the teal and brown together, and Lizzy is such an olive little thing that I think she will look gorgeous in it!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


You know how your kids have cute words that they use and then you have to keep using them long beyond when they can say them properly because they are just so cute! Mia calls gingerbread men "Gingermans". She also calls containers "Tain-gers" and called icecrea "Ice-esh" when she was about 18 months so we still use that one.

We have been slowly working our way through the activity advent, completely out of order. So far we have collected stuff on the beach to make decorations, made orange pomanders (a bit of a disaster as I didn't realise that cloves are actually quite sharp for little fingers!), got Xmas books out from the library, made an Xmas cake (not on the list but still Christmasey!), wrapped up a present to put under the Xmas trees for kids in need, and today made Gingermans!

Here is the recipe:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 c treacle

1 1/2 t ginger

1 t mixed spice

1 t cinnamon

2 t baking soda

125g butter

1 egg, beaten

3 1/2 c self raising flour

1. In a pot heat sugar, treacle and spices until they come to the boil, stirring occasionally.

2. Remove from the heat and add baking soda (make sure your kids watch this, it is pretty cool!)

3. Gently stir in butter until melted.

4. With a fork, stir in egg then gradually incorporate flour.

5. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until a soft dough.

6. Roll out to about 5mm and cut out your gingermans, or whatever shape you desire.

7. Bake at 165 C for 8 - 10 mins. They cook pretty quickly so watch them quite closely.

8. Decorate using icing and raisins or mini m and ms like we did!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Buba's new wardrobe

Yesterday Nathan took the girls away for the WHOLE DAY! My biggest break from them since Ellie was born I think. He went to his parents house and Chipmunks and I went to the gym and pottered around the house. The main thing I wanted to achieve was making dolls clothes for Mia's dolls. It is near impossible to find decent patterns, either on the internet or paper patterns. I wanted simple, easy to put on and off, modern clothes, not frou-frou dresses!

This is Buba:

Because of this I have been working on patterns to fit Mia's doll "Buba" for a while now. They are basically scaled down baby and toddler patterns, but I made mock ups of each pattern for the doll, and then adjusted them to fit better. Yesterday I used the final patterns to make Buba an entire wardrobe:

The patterns I made were a knit top that can be long or short sleeved, a trousers pattern that can be shortened to shorts, a dress pattern and a tights pattern that can be shortened. I had fun making them, but they are quite time consuming, even though you don't have to pay as much attention to finishes or details!

Here is Buba modelling her gears:

Yellow shorts with pink floral back pockets and green striped T-shirt with heart

Green striped T and tights that can be worn as PJs

With the dress over:

Long sleeved top, ladybird skirt and short tights with a heart on the bum:

This morning Mia and I wrapped them up and put them under the tree "To Buba and Dolly (the 2nd down the pecking order Doll!) From Mia. Lets hope they like them!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Garden update

Our garden is flourishing at the moment. This is what Mia and I collected this morning - beetroot, lettuce, broadbeans, peas, carrots and radishes. Mia ate almost all the carrots! I love the pea pods in stir fries so they rarely get left to actually grow peas, but Mia loved eating the peas out of them this morning so I will endeavour to leave them a bit longer! I am loving the garden at the moment!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Advent and my Mum is O for Awesome!

Its the first of December! Time to start (officially anyway!) our activity advent. My Mum made this gorgeous advent calendar for Mia last Christmas. It is a quilted tree with little ornaments that you hang up each day in December.

My Mum has made Mia some lovely handcrafted things since she was born. She sewed and knitted for us when we were kids too, and preserved, and baked and grew veges. I wonder where I got my love of all these things from!? She is much better at paying attention to detail than I am, so the things she makes are beautiful, and Mia is so lucky to have a grandmother that is so talented.

Here are some of the other things she has made:

A cross stitch Christmas stocking. When we were kids she made us these too. Actually quite big kids, probably too big to have stockings!

Dolls for both girls when Ellie was born. They have reversible dresses. This is probably a better photo of the cute baby than the dolls!

A bag of little dolls that will be wonderful if we ever get a dollshouse. Mia likes putting the dolls (or rocks or whatever!) into the bag when she is playing one of her elaborate imaginery games!

She has knitted for Mia including this jersey

She is currently working on a rainbow quilt for Ellie that I will share when it is completed.

I am so lucky to have such a legacy of handcraft talent in my family. My grandfather knitted, my grandmother spins and is a potter, my other grandmother was a talented sewer. It goes back even further than that. When I was a child we received several handmade toys that my great-grandmother had made, all the way from Petersfield in the UK, and I grew up playing with a dollshouse that both her and my great-grandfather had handcrafted for my mother and her sister. It is still at my parents, although is a little worse for wear!

I know that most people my age haven't had this background that has inspired me to try and follow in their footsteps and I feel very lucky.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book Review: Growing up Sew Liberated by Meg McElwee

A few months ago I requested that the local library buy 3 books about sewing that I wanted to check out. They said that they would buy them, which at the time I was very excited about! I also got to have first look at them! Months later the first has appeared, not sure what has happened to the other two, but I was very excited to get this one to have a look at!

The book contains both clothes patterns for babies and children up to five, as well as some patterns for play objects such as a tee-pee, doll art folder. The pictures and styling are lovely, and the instructions are detailed and clear. The writer Meg McElwee has a blog and is also a Montessori early childhood teacher, so the book has a lot of great hints about playing with and teaching your pre-schoolers and using the objects in the book. Here is an example about teaching your child numbers:

Here are some of my favourites in the book that I am looking forward to making:

Crossover T-shirt, both long and short sleeved:

Doll Papoose:

Reversible play cape:

I love these pants!:

Can't see me getting through all those before the book is due back, but a highly recommend it if your local library has it. First of December tomorrow!!

Big Brother Art folder

My sister's baby is due in the next couple of weeks, and I always feel it is important to spoil the older sibling when a baby arrives and make them feel special. Mia received so many gifts when Ellie arrived and it made her feel like it was a celebration, rather than an imposition on her life.

My nephew Quinn is extremely active and on the go all the time. There will be times with a new baby when Erin will want him to stay still and out of her way, so I thought that I would give him a gift that may increase the chances of that happening!

I made him an art folder with his name on it using my tutorial, although I made it a bit bigger to fit everything into.

I added a playdough kit,

And felts, an activity book and some stickers.

I hope it keeps him out of mischief for a while Erin!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Xmas card

Every Christmas since I have had Mia I have made a photo card to send to friends and family. It is so nice to have a record of where the girls are at for both ourselves and for people who don't see them very often. Here is this years version, hot off the press:

I am completely aware that it is cheesey as, but oh well its Xmas and I am allowed to be cheesey!

My inspiration for making these cards is my Aunt Anna, my cousin Holly's Mum. Every Christmas when we were kids she would make an Xmas card photo of her 3 kids. As I am 10 years older than Hols I have vivid memories of a lot of these cards, even ones before Holly was born. There was the Xmas chef one of James and Liz (before Hols was born), paper chef hats and all, the baby Jesus one (with Holly in a manger) and the sand dunes one, which must have been the next Xmas when Holly was about 18 months. Holly and I are both lucky to have creative Mums who have set the example for us!

Anyway, back to the cheesey card and a little explanation. I hate telling this story, but about 4 or 5 years ago I drew strength from such stories so thought I would put it out there. I am not the kind of person who likes to draw attention to themselves, or feel like I am asking for sympathy, but this is now very much history and with my 2 beautiful babies, I don't need sympathy!

Before I had Mia I had 3 miscarriages in 18 months. I had all the tests and everything, but they couldn't find anything wrong with me. When I got pregnant with Mia I didn't allow myself to get excited for ages, but once my pregnancy got past 12 weeks it was very easy and straight forward. When you are in that position you get told that it is just a matter of time, you have to keep trying and it will happen for you. Not much help being told that by a doctor, but it did help me to read stories from people who had got through the other side and have babies. Once I was in that position it was amazing to realise how many people had been in a similar position, or worse, but they had all ended up with a baby, or babies if they kept hoping and trying. I also have friends who had had to go down the IVF path, or are about to, and that has brought happy results as well.

When it came to getting pregnant with Ellie I geared myself up for a long road as well. We even talked long and hard about just having one, and set an end point "3 miscarriages and we give up and enjoy Mia". But then I got pregnant straight away and had another text book pregnancy, and birth! We are definitely drawing the line at 2 though, stop while we are ahead!

My point is, enjoy your beautiful families over Christmas, regardless of how easy or hard it was to get them. They are so precious and the holiday season can be stressful so take time to look at them, breathe them in and realise how wonderful it is that you have them!

Photo books

Nathan's Mum, who is a primary school teacher, has made Mia a couple of books, one about going to Grandma's house, and one about going to the zoo. Mia loves these, and for ages I have wanted to make my girls a book each about themselves. I got these two printed for Xmas when warehouse stationary had a half price deal.

Mia's is about what she does in a normal day, and what she does each day of the week.

Ellie's is about our extended family, I figure Mia will be able to "read" is to her by telling her who is in the pictures. Notice the picture of my sister, that will teach her for taking silly pictures of herself on my camera!!

I think my girls are going to love them!!

Rhubarb and Strawberry shortcake

What flavours and foods do you associate with spring? Having a vege garden is great because you can see what is growing from season to season, and use it is inspiration for dishes that you cook. With spring I think of greens (lettuce, spinach, silverbeet), peas and broadbeans (busy growing in the garden as I write!), coriander and mint. I also think of strawberries! We had some growing, but after we ate the first half a dozen the birds got at them. Next spring I will have to grow more plants and cover them with netting!

The rhubarb is also going nuts in the garden, probably because I fertilised it and moved it. You either love or hate rhubarb, and I am a rhubarb fan, especially when mixed with other fruits in a dessert or cake.

Recently I have seen several recipes incorparating both, which is a great idea as they are both ripening at the moment, and they are such contrasts in taste - sweet and tart. The other night I decided to try making my own version of such a dessert, using a tried and tested shortcake recipe, which is great with any fruit.

Rhubarb and strawberry shortcake

1 c stewed and sweetened rhubarb

1 punnet of strawberries

125g butter

1/2c sugar

1 egg

1 c self-raising flour

1 c flour

Cream softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat briefly. Fold in flours. Halve the dough. Chill half wrapped in gladwrap in the freezer. Press the other half into a baking dish.

Spread the rhubarb over the bottom layer of shortcake. Slice the strawberries over top and sprinkle with a little sugar. Grate the half from the freezer over the fruit to form the top of the shortcake. Bake at 180 C for about 45 mins. Serve sprinkled with icing sugar and/or with icecream or whipped cream.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Countdown to Christmas: Activity Advent

Christmas is so exciting when you are a child. I remember the huge build up to Christmas day when I was a child, christmas cards given out to classmates, all the end of year school activities, and excitement about going to stay with family for Christmas. For years now my family has had 3 generations of adults, but in the last few years we have started to add to the 4th generation, and the eldest of that generation are starting to be conscious of Christmas and all the excitement that comes with it. The bonus of having children who are beside themselves with the happiness of the season is that it can't help but rub off on the adults around them!

I have decided that for Mia's enjoyment, and my own, I am going to start a tradition of an activity advent in December. Ellie can join in properly in a couple of years when she realises how exciting Christmas is. I have been trying to come up with a mix of activities, and here is what we are going to do each day in December:

  1. Take out the advent calendar my Mum made last Xmas.

  2. Write santa a letter (Mia has been asking to do this for weeks!)

  3. Make fimo ornaments. Here are some pictures of ideas:

    From etsy:

From meet the Dubiens:

From etsy:

From geekabella:

4. Make gingerbread men

5. Go to the library and get some Christmas books

6. Go to shop and let Mia pick a decoration each for her and Ellie

7. Buy a present for a child in need and put under Xmas tree in Coastlands. Talk about why we did this.

8. Make orange pomanders (Image from sjarmerende jul)

9. Buy a present for community in need from world vision and discuss where it will go and why they need it.

10. Collect things from the beach and use them to make decorations.

11. Decorate the tree.

12. Watch an Xmas movie with treats.

13. Photo with santa.

14. Make christmas mince pies and take them to an old peoples' home.

15. Make woven decorations from the crafty crow.

16. Take Xmas baking to friends.

17. Take food to the food bank and talk about why people need to use the food bank, especially over Xmas.

18. Wrap Xmas presents.

19. Make Xmas making and take to the maternity hospital for mothers and staff working over Xmas.

20. Pick up rubbish.

21. Go out for a family meal together.

22. Colour in Xmas pictures.

23. Sing Xmas carols.

24. Open 1 present from under the tree.

Depending on the weather and whay is happening I reserve the right to mix the days up a bit! In fact we have cheated and already done a couple of them. The food bank did a collection so we put a bag out, and Mia wrote her santa letter:

Who wants to join some of our new traditions?