What's on my kitchen table?

Buttons and thread

So glad you asked! Currently there are some lovely burnished metal buttons from Buttonmania - if you've never had the pleasure of visiting, make sure you check it out next time you are in Melbourne. Button heaven!

And look - there's also some gorgeous French cotton thread from the incomparable L'uccello - if you've never been to this shop, filled with French and vintage haberdashery goodness, then you've no idea of the beauty of which you are missing out. Truly, visit it right after you check out Buttonmania - they are just down one floor from each other in the Nicholas Building. No excuses!

Oh, and that green knitted thing you see in the corner of the frame? Well, with a bit of careful handstitching, and the addition of the aforementioned buttons, it shall soon be green knitting no more and shall instead be my new favourite dress. Squeeeeeeeee!

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Green dress seaming

Green Seaming

Hold onto your hats, people. Grab the nearest armchair for support, if needed. Stock up on the smelling salts, prepare to fully and utterly suspend your disbelief - oh, and if there are any fainters in the audience I beg of you, for your own safety, to leave now, for what I am about to say is shocking and may be hard for the feeble-hearted to bear: I have almost finished seaming my green dress!

Yes, it's taken me all winter. Yes, it's probably not going to get that much wear this year, as I've left my run a bit late. Yes, it's probably going to raise a few eyebrows on the school run. But do you know what? I've made it all by myself, and I'm quite proud of that. I haven't been sucked into the trap of buying what the fashion marketers have decreed I should be buying this season. I haven't purchased something produced in a horrible sweatshop, endorsing such places by handing over my cash. I've opted out, and made something unique and even though it may have taken me quite a while to get it done, it's going to be super snuggly warm, the shade of green will suit me perfectly and it's going to be FRIGGIN AWESOME!

And in a world where global temperature rises are causing record Artic ice melt due to our inability to curb emissions, where child labour is still allowed so we can continue to feed our consumeristic ways and where ruining pristine environments to dig up tar sands that will send us hurtling towards runaway climate change is somehow ok just so we can keep on trucking, I think we need all the thoughtful, considered handmade goodness we can get!

Sorry - got a bit environmental on you all there. I just felt like I myself needed a reminder about why I take the time to makes things, because it's easy to forget why I do things the hard way when there are all these messages telling us to buy, consume, get get get. And then do it all again tomorrow!

Nah. Not me. I'm trying to tread as lightly as I can. And when this darn dress is finished, I'll be treading lightly and warmly. Win win! Although I might leave off riding my bike in this dress - imagine, after all my hard work, if I snagged it or got oil on it? Gah, doesn't bear thinking about.

Ok, pep talk over - back to the seaming! The sooner this dress is done, the sooner I can wear it, and it's going to be so amazing that I'm going to wear it forever. And then when I die, or get fat (whichever comes first) the Tyger is going to take it and wear it. I know this for a fact - she's already claimed dibs on it, along with most of my handmade wardrobe. So take that, disposable fashion!

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Raspberry and banana bread

Banana Bread

The Galumph, after spending a few weeks being totally gluten-free, has begun to tentatively add small amounts of gluten back into his diet, to see how much his body can tolerate. So far the oat porridge has gone down well, as has the odd slice of bread. So when I wondered aloud if I should make some banana bread this morning, he was totally on board. In fact, he bounced around the table to put his hands on my shoulders, kissed me soundly on the cheek and said rather enthusiastically "You should absolutely make it!"

"But honey!", I said, "I'd hate to upset your tummy with all the gluten. Maybe I should forget about baking for this week..."

"Never mind my tummy!" interjected Galumph hastily. "Not when there is a loaf of your totally delicious banana bread at stake. The bananas! The raspberries! The slathering of butter onto a slice still warm from the oven...you wouldn't tease me like this by not baking some. Please, PLEASE make the banana bread - I'm sweet-treat deprived!"

Well, I'd be a cruel wife indeed to ignore such fervent begging pleas. Besides, the thought of a slice with a cuppa will be the only thing to keep me going as I devote a few hours to seaming my green dress (yes! actual seaming! break out the party poppers! this thing might just get finished yet!)

Raspberry and banana bread

150g butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 really ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
2 cups self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup low fat milk
1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed

1 - Preheat oven to 180 C. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until pale. Add the eggs one by one, and mix in well.

2 - Add the bananas to the mixture, and use a wooden spoon to mix together. Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon over the top, then stir together.

3 - Carefully add the raspberries, taking care not to crush them when stirring them in. Pour mixture into a greased loaf pan, and bake for 45 - 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in tin, then transfers to a wire rack.

Best served cut into lovely thick slices with a slick of butter and washed down with a cup of tea (she says wiping crumbs from her chin)

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Asparagus time


"Yippeeyiyay!" carolled Jorth as she cake walked down the street, interspersing the dance with a few shimmies and two-steps as the mood struck.

A couple of passersby stood and watched her progress. "What the heck is up with that crazy lady today?" asked one, to which the other replied "Oh, don't you mind her and her wacky ways - she's just found out that asparagus has appeared back in the shops."

Asparagus

That reminds me of the old joke: One day two asparagus stalks were walking together down the street. They were just stepping off the footpath onto the road when a speeding car came around the corner and ran one of them over.

The uninjured asparagus stalk called 000, and pretty soon an ambulance came to take the injured stalk to the hospital, where he was rushed into surgery whilst his friend waited anxiously.

After a long and agonizing wait, the doctor finally appeared. He told the uninjured asparagus stalk, "I have good news, and I have bad news. The good news is that your friend is going to pull through."
"Hooray!" said the stalk. "But what's the bad news, Doc?"

"Well, I'm afraid the bad news is that he's going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life".
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Oh dear. Don't mind me - I think I have a bad case of spring fever! But how good does that asparagus look? I've been waiting ages for it to come back. Now the big decision is how to cook it... with scrambled eggs, in a tart, simply steamed, grilled on the hot place, in a risotto...decisions, decisions...

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Baby blue knitted vest

It is with great pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, that I announce the crossing-off of another item from my winter project list. Presenting to you all the latest garment hot off the needles: a wee little baby blue vest!

Vest #1


Vest #2

Ok, so the vest isn't much of a talker, so I'll furnish you with all the details. It was knitted using a mere two balls of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, was a quick and easy knit, but boy oh boy - did this thing have a lot of finishing in it. I think it had more finishing per stitch than anything else I've ever done, what with the neckline, armbands and seaming. Still, it's all done now, which means that the green dress might finally get some attention. Ahem.

Project details:
Pattern - Tank Top from The Ultimate Book of Baby Knits by Debbie Bliss
Yarn - 2 balls of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in pale blue
Needles: 3.25mm and 3mm circular

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Coconut Macaroons


Macaroons #1

The situation was desperate - it was afternoon tea time, and there was nothing sweet at all in the house to go with a cuppa. "Curse this gluten-free life!" cried Jorth as she rummaged frantically in the pantry, pushing aside packets of buckwheat noodles and quinoa as she searched for some sort of wheat-based sweet treat.

But alas! There was nothing to be found, no matter how many jars of lentils she jostled about. Poor old Galumph, deprived of his beloved gluten-filled flours, had thrown the baking towel in completely, and the trusty blue tin that usually housed a home-made sweet treat was sitting forlornly on the highest shelf of the highest cupboard, empty and alone.

Angrily slamming the pantry door shut, Jorth muttered "Well! If the mountain won't come to Mohammad, then I guess I'll just have to get baking!"

Half an hour and three egg whites later, Jorth was happily munching on a coconut-filled chewy macaroon, and the biscuit tin, filled to the brim, was once more in it's rightful place on the kitchen bench, ready to offer goodies to anybody who walked in the door.

(And trust me, pretty much any regular visitor to our place makes a beeline for that darn tin, prising off the lid and asking "What's in here today?" before they even remove their coat!)

Macaroons #2

Not to be confused with the French macarons, these macaroons are more CWA than Parisian patisserie. But to be honest, I much prefer them to their showy French cousins. They have a delectable chewiness that is just right for afternoon tea, and are sweet without being screw-up-your-face-in-pleasured-agony sweet.

Plus the Galumph can eat them. Several in a row, in fact, if last night's tin-raid was any indication! Thankfully he did remove his coat, but still!

Coconut Macaroons
3 egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups dessicated coconut

1 - Preheat oven to 180 C. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.

2 - Keeping the mixer going, slowly add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is used, and the mixture is thick and glossy.

3 - Turn off the mixer, then using a spatula, add the vanilla essence. Carefully add the coconut half a cup at a time, using the spatula to mix it in, keeping the mixture light and airy.

4 - Place heaped spoonfuls of the mixture onto a lined tray, and bake for 12 - 14 minutes, or until the tops are just browned. Remove immediately to cool on a wire rack. Makes ~30.

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Spiced lentil and carrot soup


Carrot Soup #1

The poor old Tyger is home today with a temperature and sore throat. Gallivanting around as Anne Shirley yesterday must have plum wore her out! After tucking her into bed, and placing a well-loved pile of books next to her bed, I asked what she'd like for lunch.

"Soup!", she croaked.

No problem, honey. Except, of course, that it was. My plan for the day included doing a fruit and veg shop, not tending the fevered brow of my child, so it was with a little trepidation that I opened the fridge and critically examined the vegie drawer. Ach - the drawer was pathetically empty, apart from four carrots and half an onion.

Yes. Half an onion. Whenever I pull a stunt like frugally putting half an onion back into the fridge for another day, my brother calls me tight, my Dad calls me "careful" and I call it practising the finest household economy. Not that any of that mattered at the moment - what the heck was I going to do with half a friggin onion and a sick child?

Thankfully I always keep a pretty well stocked larder (there's a doomer inside me desperate to get out), so after gazing at the half onion for inspiration, I decided to invite some coconut milk, red curry paste and red lentils to the party, and see how well they danced together.

Thankfully those ingredients can boogie! We had a mighty fine soup indeed for lunch, and the Tyger perked up so much afterwards that she decided that she'd had enough of bed, and maybe it was time to watch a movie now?

I'll put this miraculous recovery down to the soup, natch!

Carrot Soup #2

Spiced lentil and carrot soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 brown onion, finely diced (oh go on, be crazy and use a whole one if you have it!)
1 heaped tbsp of Thai red curry paste
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 cup red lentils, picked over and washed well
400g tin of coconut milk
1 cup of water

1 - Heat the oil over a medium-low heat in a saucepan, and saute until soft. Add the red curry paste, and stir for a minute.

2 - Add the carrots, and stir until covered with the onion and paste mixture.

3 - Add the lentils, coconut milk and water, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Take off heat, let cool, then blend until smooth.

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Simplicity 2843 - Anne of Green Gables costume

It was a beautiful late winter day, and the very first blooms were beginning to emerge from their winter's slumber. Anne, slowly strolling home after spending the afternoon over at the Barry's farm, was enraptured, and gathered great handfuls to place in the old cracked jug that Marilla had allowed her to keep in her bedroom. In the distance she could hear the quiet jangle of cow bells, and hurried up to give Matthew a hand getting the cows in for evening milking, pausing only to bestow a cheery wave in Mrs Rachel Lynde's general direction as she scampered on by, trailing petals as she went...

Hang on a second! For a moment I could have sworn I was embedded in the pages of Anne of Green Gables, but that's not a red-haired scamp in the pics in front of me - it's just the Tyger, proudly wearing her fresh-off-the-sewing-machine Anne costume!
Anne #1

Anne #6

Anne #7

I used Simplicity 2843 for the costume. I must admit, being a rush job, it's not the finest sewing I've ever done. In fact, Mrs Lynde would probably have a heart attack if she could see my lazy, only-folded-over-once hems, but the Tyger is pleased as punch with it, and that's all that matters!

Besides, it sure beats wearing either a garbage bag or a motley collection of saucepans for Book Week Dress Up Parade, so no complaints allowed. Otherwise I might have to start that drone all too familiar to children of all ages everywhere: "When I was young we didn't even have Book Week! And if we ever got a chance to dress up we had to make do with garbage bags! And we had to walk 15 minutes to school in the snow with no shoes..." etc etc.

I wasn't thrilled about the dress construction techniques asked for. Attaching the bodice to the skirt was in particular a bit troublesome, but that's really my only quibble. Besides, at least I got to race through it using a sewing machine. Imagine doing it all by hand, as the ladies in the Anne series would have had to do, unless they were rich enough to afford a dressmaker. I shudder to think of it!

Although, admittedly, it would be rather nice to be sitting snug in some dear friend's parlour in Avonlea, happily sewing and gossiping away as part of a sewing group, maybe discussing the finer points of poetry, or, more likely, trying to figure out who was more dishy: Gilbert Blythe or Moody Spurgeon (Gilbert, hands down).

Galumph always likes to gently rib me by claiming that I was born in the wrong era, but people did seem kinder then. Less self-absorbed, more neighbourly, perhaps. Although, frankly, I am pretty happy with the whole modern medicine thing, so I think I might just stay here in 2012, let the Tyger enjoy her Anne costume, and dip into the books whenever I fancy a historical escape!

Project Details
Pattern: Simplicity 2843, dress A
Fabric: 1m of patterned quilting cotton, 2.7m cotton drill for skirt
Notions: 3m grosgrain ribbon, 9 buttons.

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Ghosts of bad costumes past

Jorth and her brother were reminiscing on the phone recently. "Do you remember", began her brother, "the totally crap costumes we used to get as kids? I remember once, for Book Week, I decided that I wanted to go as a character from The Magic Faraway Tree. I had visions of getting dressed up like Moon-Face or maybe Mr Whatzisname, but somehow it was decided that I should go as The Saucepan Man, so I was trussed up with so many pans and lids and things that I couldn't even sit in my seat properly at school!"

As an afterthought he added "That was a really crap costume."

"Whoa-ho!" said Jorth. "I'll take that and raise you one, dear brother. Remember the concert that we used to have at the school fete? Well, one year my grade was performing some sort of under-the-sea song. All the other kids came as mermaids, and sparkly fish and nifty things like that. I was placed in a garbage bag that had bits of green crepe paper stuck to it, and told to say if anybody asked that I was a piece of seaweed. Seaweed, I beg of you! I think I win when it comes to the crap costume award!"

"Ha!" said her brother, with little disguised mirth. "I do remember that! You looked like a total loser, standing up on stage in your garbage bag!"
"Normally I get quite affronted when you call me a loser" replied Jorth, "but I'll have to agree with you on this one. And that is why I'm going to put in a smidge more effort for the Tyger, even if I'm still hemming seams on the morning of the Book Week parade."

"Thatta girl" said her brother. "But you're still a loser."

*********************************************************************************

Ah, brothers. Doncha love 'em? Anyway, here's a sneak peek - pop back tomorrow for the big reveal!
Costume

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Blossoms


Blossom

A glimpse of beauty, greedily snatched on the school run this afternoon. And boy oh boy, did I need it!

(it's been one of those days: deadlines, power failure, surplus of chores, abscence of lunch, burnt fingers)

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A knitterly change of plans


Pale Blue Knitting

"We're a little concerned about you, Ms Jorth" said the head of the Adherence to Declaration of Crafting Plans committee, fixing Jorth with her steely gaze as Jorth stood nervously before them. "According to our records, you declared on your blog mere days ago that you would finish up a striped baby jumper along with the rest of your winter projects, yet here we have evidence of something else entirely on your needles!"

With that she brandished Jorth's 3.25mm bamboos, which indeed did have some knitting on it, and unfortunately for Jorth that knitting did not resembled a striped baby sweater.

"I can explain!" yelped Jorth, feeling somewhat fearful that her precious knitting might fly off the needles, such was the enthusiasm with which the committee head was waving them around.

"Well, it better be good, my girl!" said the head, as an officer from the Rehabilitation Centre for Wayward Crafters clinked his handcuffs menacingly.

Jorth took a deep breath, and began to explain. "I had the most sincere intentions of making the stated striped baby jumper, but when I went to dig through my stash to find the yarn, I discovered to my great dismay that I only had one and a half balls of blue yarn left, which wouldn't have been enough. So, bearing in mind also that summer was fast approaching, I decided to instead make the cute little baby vest that you can see on the needles instead. This way I was making a more weather-appropriate garment, wasn't wasting any wool, and wasn't enhancing my stash by dashing off to the yarn store. I swear, I'm not breaking my pledge - I'm just exercising flexibility!"

"Hmmm" said the head, giving Jorth a hard look. "And do you still stick by your pledge - that you will finish up your winter projects before embarking on any summer projects?"

"Absolutely! I swear on both needles and yarn!" said Jorth.

"Fine. You may go. But remember young lady - we'll be watching you. Him especially!", she said with a nod in the direction of the rehab officer, who was looking mutinous at the thought of a serial craft pledge buster getting away again.

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The fabric stash is calling me


Fabric
It is hard - oh so damnably hard - to concentrate on finishing up one's winter knitting projects when the sun is shining outside, the bees have reappeared and are lazily buzzing around, the magnolia trees are showing off their spring petal gowns, and there is a stash of freshly washed and ironed fabric sitting in front of you, just begging to be made up into summer dresses.

However, I shall be strong! I shall stuff the fabric into the sewing bureau and ignore it's siren calls, and shall sit and knit with a stout heart, completing my projects as I have pledged to do.

Oh, hang on a sec - my editor is whispering in my ear. What's that you say? The TAB is offering pretty darn good odds (2 to 1, you believe) that I shall totally crack before the green dress is seamed?!? Begone, you doubting wastrel! I shall hold firm! Just don't let me near a fabric store!

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Pattern review: Vogue 8742

Well, it started off on a seemingly good foot. Orange dress pressed and ready to go? Check! Heels relatively clean and unscuffed? Check! Slick of neutral lippie? Check! Hooray, let's go take some photos!

I really should have checked with the wind in regard to the hair, because the wind totally did not want to play ball. I lasted about 2 minutes, and then gave up and shoved the tresses back into the usual bun. So excuse the coiff (I try to, on a daily basis) and let's talk DRESS!
Orange Dress Finished #6

Orange Dress Finished #5

Is this dress me, or is it me? (Correct answer: it's very me!) It's bright! It's comfy! It needs to be worn with a statement necklace! I'm in love!

It was really very easy to sew up - the hardest part was doing the gathering, and even that was fairly simple as far as these things go. I quite like how slim the sleeves are, which is a very good thing - so often on a knit dress pattern you end up with quite wide sleeves that seem to do nothing but flap around in the wind, and since I was having enough wind issues as was, I was happy that my nice slight sleeves were behaving themselves when I braved the elements for the photo shoot.

The fabric used is a merino wool knit from The Fabric Store. It really is the perfect weight for a dress like this - not quite as thick as a ponti, but heavier than a t-shirt jersey weight. It sewed up like a dream, pressed up well and is the most awesome sort of orange around!

The really fun thing about this pattern was using bias binding tape to finish the neck edge. It was a simple, quick and easy way to give a neckline a lovely finish. I'd never put bias tape onto a jersey knit before, but this is one little trick that I'll be using again!

All the hems have been double stitched to give the appearance of a coverstitch finish. I used my knit stitch on all seams, but not for the hems. Instead, I increased my stitch length, and that gave it enough 'give' to handle a bit of fabric stretching without snapping. I much prefer a straight stitch hem finish to the knit stitch one - I find that the knit stitch can look messy, even when sewn in a perfectly straight line.

All in all, this is a terrific pattern that has resulted in a great looking, easy to wear dress. I might even make a sleeveless version out of cotton jersey for summer!

Project Details
Pattern: Vogue 8742, view B, size 8
Fabric: 1.3m of merino wool jersey knit (medium weight) from The Fabric Store.
Notions: Hook and eye for back closure, bias binding tape.

Note: Because there is a lot of long seams in this garment, I went through two reels of cotton making it, so if you decide you are going to make one yourself, grab that extra reel!

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L'orange: c'est finis!


Orange Dress #4

"Yes!" said the merino wool dress, as the hook and eye were hand sewn in with care, the final task to be completed.

"Yes!" said the sewing machine, as the bobbin containing orange thread was removed and the machine packed away.

"Yes!" said Jorth, as she got the biggest, fattest texta pen she could find and scribbled off Orange Vogue 8742 from her to-do list.

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Grey clouds and orange dresses

"It's all my fault!" thought Jorth despondently (and not a little guiltily) as she stood at the window. Usually, at this juncture, the writer would insert some sort of verb - looking, staring, gazing - but Jorth could do none of these, as the rain was hammering down so hard, and lashing the glass so mightily, that naught could be seen through the pane at all, and Jorth had to content herself with standing there, feeling the cold ooze through to chill her bones, and the writer had to content herself with a surplus of commas in one very long sentence instead.

Jorth moved away, and sat down at her sewing machine. "If only I hadn't declared on my blog earlier in the week that winter was almost over and done with. Instead, I had to go and open my big mouth, and as a result we've been cursed with a weekend of hail, frosts and bitter cold. You duffer, Jorth!"

Still, every cloud has a silver lining, and there were plenty of big fat grey clouds in the sky for Jorth to pick from. "At least", she considered, turning her thoughts towards a more optimistic bent, "I'll have plenty of time to both finish up and wear my bright orange dress before the warm weather truly comes!"

And with that she happily began sewing her Vogue 8742 in soft merino wool, unwittingly beginning to hum that famous song by Travis as she did so.
Orange Dress #1

Orange Dress #2

Orange Dress #3

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36

Birthday Cake

Dearest, darlingest, gluten-sensitive husband,

Here's a flourless cake baked just for you, because both Grumbles and I think you are pretty darn ace. What it lacks in flour, it sure makes up for with eggs, chocolate, sugar and lotsa lotsa love. Happy birthday, Galumph!

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Finishing up with winter

Cross Stitching

Thanks for all your lovely, kind comments regarding yesterday's post. It can be so hard sometimes to shield yourself from the bombardment of materialistic messages, and remain focused on what really matters.

There's this wonderful JD Salinger story that I have loved for many years called Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters. The story details the wedding day of Seymour Glass, although the man himself fails to put in an appearance - rather, it is told from the experience of his brother Buddy. Anyway, this Glass family had a number of wonderful habits, one of which was writing messages to each other using a sliver of soap onto the bathroom mirror. Sometimes it might be a haiku, composed whilst in the shower, or sometimes just a plain old admonition for somebody, for heaven's sake, to pick up their dirty clothes and put them in the laundry hamper. I've always been partial to this writing on the bathroom mirror biz, and am seriously considering scrawling on my own "It's not what you have that matters. It's WHAT YOU DO!!!", probably with the extravagant surplus of exclamation marks.

Speaking of doing, I've been sniffing the air like an animal coming out of winter hibernation today, whenever I have chanced to find myself outside. The air is soft and fragrant, and the promise of spring is so close that you could almost grab it with both hands if you tried hard enough. This means two things:

1 - I really should think about what I want to plant in my garden for summer (otherwise known as jamming seeds into a motley collection of pots and hoping for the best); and
2 - I've absolutely gotta finish up my winter projects so I can start sewing summer dresses!

The winter projects to-do list stands likes this:
 - Green knitted dress. Requires seaming and buttons (I can practically hear it growling from the bedroom at me for leaving it so long).
 - Another green knitted dress. This time with cables! Needs to be completed (so far only 1.5 arms done, and don't even ask why I tried to knit two green dresses in one season. There simply is no answer, other than I am insanely optimistic when it comes to my own knitting ability).
 - One bright orange dress. Cut out, requiring sewing.
 - Cross stitch. As you can see above, L is complete, but the rest of the alphabet must still be sinking shots in a bar somewhere.
 - Another striped baby jumper that I rashly promised to the lady who runs the fruit and veg shop. Why, oh why do I do these things to myself???

So I'm now banning myself from even thinking about beginning anything new, until the above list is checked off. How are everybody else's projects going?

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Life and death and craft

PJs #1

We went to a funeral on Saturday. As always, going to a funeral brings up some big questions that I usually have trouble answering. Who am I? Am I living the best life I can? Am I making a difference? What am I leaving behind?

The mass itself was a quietly joyful celebration, farewelling one who was glad to move on to the next stage. We moved through the hymns, the readings, the homily, and then our friend's daughter stood up to deliver the eulogy. She spoke affectionately of her father, and recounted the many small things that he did that all combined to make him a terrific father, husband, man. And that answered quite a few of the questions for me.

This living business isn't really about accumulating material wealth, or status, or power. It's about doing acts of love, and it's the small, regular ones, performed without any fanfare, that really reflect who you are as a person. It's the reading the wee ones a bedtime story every single night, even when you are tired and full of the can't-be-bothereds. It's making your best friend her favourite soup when she arrives unannounced for lunch. It's smiling at a stranger who looks like they need a bit of cheer. It's donating money to a charity, or giving blood, or volunteering for some essential but unfashionable cause - done because it's the right thing to do, and for that reason only. No reward expected.

Sometimes I lose sight of all that. I feel I should be more. More what, exactly, I'm never quite sure of, but I just feel that I should be more impressive, more respected, more consumeristically awe-inspiring. Which is stupid, because I really am where I should be, right now. I am the mother to a wonderful daughter. I have a terrific, top-notch husband. So what if we don't fly to Thailand twice a year to top up our tans. So what if we don't have a huge, fancy house on the perfect street, with a shiny latest model car out the front. So what if we don't eat out much, or own the latest gadgets because the budget doesn't quite stretch that far. We have each other, and we have plenty of love, and we have more than enough to share in the big scheme of things, so we do. And that is what it really should be all about. I just need to ignore the outside influences, powered by millions of dollars of marketing fees, that try to tell me otherwise. Because at the end of the day, I'm pretty sure that nobody at my funeral will be thinking that I was a fabulous person because I always had the latest Apple iPhone.

So the next day, with all these big thoughts swirling through this old noggin of mine, I gathered my girl and together we sewed ourselves some new pyjamas pants. And as we sewed, and chatted, and taught, and learnt, I thought to myself that if I could be summed with "She was a mother who sewed jimmie jams with her daughter", then I would be happy with that. Because it's not just about pyjamas, is it? It's about spending time with my dearest girl, letting her know that she is beloved, and I couldn't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than by teaching her, stitch by stitch, what I know. And that I'm honoured that she wants to spend her day that way too.

Whew! Enough of the heavy stuff. Bring on the pjs dancing!

PJs #3

PJs #4

PJs #5

PJs #2

Pattern used for my pants: Butterick 5432   
Pattern used for Grumble's pants: Simplicity 5338
Fabric: Amy Butler and Lesley Grainger flannel from GJ's Discount Fabrics.

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Pyjamas emergency

PJ Flannel

Grumbles and Jorth emerged from their respective bedrooms, and look at each other with eyes that were filled with both horror and sleep.

"It's a complete and utter travesty!" said Jorth, sending an anxious hand through her wild bed hair.

"It's uncontemplatable!" agreed Grumbles, looking sadly down.

"It's a mocking perversion of all that is right and good!"

"It's terribly unflattering!"

"It's a scandalous sartorial abhorrence!"

"It's really really...bad!" finished Grumbles, who was rapidly running out of adjectives (well, she is only eight).

"What on earth are the two of you talking about" cried out Galumph, who not only had been roused from his bed by the symphony of screeching, but was now feeling completely bewildered by the seeming impenetrable dialogue between mother and daughter.

Almost as if they had been secretly practicing this move for an occasion such as this, both Jorth and Grumbles spun simultaneously on the spot, flung out their hands in a despairing jazz hands fashion and cried out "Isn't it obvious? Look at the state of our pyjamas!"

"I'm showing a clear two inches of ankle!" cried Grumbles. "It's not only indecent but chilly as well!"

"And I've got a hole in an unmentionable place and the fabric is too thin to patch!", lamented Jorth.

"Er, Mum?" said Grumbles, with a significant nod in the direction of her nether regions. "You might want to check that again..."

"Oh my sainted aunt!" cried Jorth upon closer inspection. "TWO unmentionable places! That's it - there's only one thing to be done."

"GJ's followed by more sewing?" asked Grumbles.

"I have trained you well, Grasshopper!" replied Jorth

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Minestrone with quinoa

Minestrone with quinoa

Here at chez Jorth, we have a sneaking suspicion that Master Galumph may be gluten intolerant. Once my initial moment of panic had passed (gluten intolerant? But we live on gluten-based carbs! What in the blazes am I going to feed you all? squawk! splutter! yelp!) I decided to get all scientific on this problem. Only just stopping short of retrieving my lab coat and safety glasses from the cupboard, I sat down and figured out our hypothesis:


Galumph is gluten intolerant.

Hmm. This didn't look very impressive. I mentally scolded myself: "Jorthy! Four years of science at uni, and that's the best that you can do?", so to make things look a little more official I added underneath:

This supposition is made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.

There! That big fat HECS bill wasn't totally wasted! Now that my hypothesis was in order, and my lab coat and safety glasses were on alert in the cupboard, ready to adorn my person if I happened to rap three times on the cupboard door, I was ready to prove or disprove my statement by means of an experiment. Excuse me whilst I run around the room looking all mad-professorey, rubbing hands together in glee and cackling in a disturbing manner. Potentially whilst wearing my lab coat.

It sounds exciting, doesn't it? A food-based experiment, right inside my own kitchen! You can almost smell the Bunsen burners flaming away! In actuality, all it really means is that for the next two weeks gluten in any way, shape or form is forbidden from entering our house, and if outside our place of residence, it is forbidden from entering the Galumph's mouth, and we'll see if that improves things. (Did you hear that, mister? NO BAKERY TREATS!) In the spirit of things, I've written out a menu plan featuring everything but gluten, and also invented this gluten-free minestrone, which I have to say was so darn tasty that we all had two helpings.

Minestrone with quinoa

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, white part only finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 zucchini, finely diced
800g tin of crushed tomatoes
400g tin of red kidney beans, rinsed well
3/4 cup quinoa, washed well
4 cups of water

1 - Heat the olive oil over a medium-low heat in a large saucepan, and saute the leek and carrot until soft. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, beans and stock and bring to the boil.

2 - Add the quinoa, turn down the heat and let the soup simmer for 20 minutes. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and serve.

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Heirloom carrots with homemade hummus

Carrots #1

"You would think, being a fancy schmany bunch of heirloom Dutch carrots, that you would be treated with a little respect, but so far all we've had is some rather vicious scrubbing in the sink, and then our tops and tails hacked off!"

"Aww, shuddup!" retorted the hummus. "At least you haven't been blitzed to smithereens like I have. One minute I was a happy, contented can of chickpeas, and the next I was pureed into smoothness with lemon juice and garlic and goodness knows what else. What a way to end up!"

A moments silence followed before the carrot said in a consoling voice "Well, at least we're tasty!"

"Too bloody right!" replied the hummus.


Hummus










1 can of chickpeas, rinsed well
juice of 1 lemon (or to taste)
50ml of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon tahini paste
Freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients into a bowl, and blitz with a stick blender, adding more oil or lemon to taste. Serve with the brightest, craziest carrots you can find.

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