Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I am quitting sugar

I guess this makes it real :-)

I'm trying Sarah Wilson's I quit sugar program. But also want to read the Sweet Poison stuff from David Gillespie.

I just threw out my first shopping bag full of sugary things from the pantry. It's bin night here and so there's no going back. Funny, but I couldn't yet bring myself to throw out all the syrups, sugars and sauces that we won't be eating any more, or at least not for a while I hope. It's an experiment, we'll see. I couldn't bring myself to throw out all the advent calendar treats, Giggi has been looking forward to them too much. But if I can't cut out most of his other sugar, at least he'll still be having less...

Apparently this is as hard as quitting smoking. I'm so thankful not to have been a smoker. But I'm not sure I'm prepared for how hard this is going to be. Bring on the headaches, let's get this detox over with.

wednesday knitting update

Wednesday again, well here goes. Here's a run down of my w.i.p.s. The good news is that I've finished one raspberry sock. And cast on the toe of the next one, which is the most fiddly bit. Evidence here:

Must give a shout out to my symfonie wood KnitPro dpns. Loving them. I picked mine up at Sunspun, Canterbury, one of my favourite knitting shops. I'd love to try these but no way I could justify them. Anyone out there tried the signature needles???

The next piece of progress is on some socks for my lovely husband. This is obviously a not-so-secret project. He, himself, is not at all boring but he does have boring taste in socks. They are a super plain ribbed sock. Pattern is a free ravelry download found here. To my shame these were started on the 1st of October and sock 1 was finished on the 8th of October... yet poor sock 2 has languished. I have now finished the leg and turned the heel, and I feel we may have turned a corner...

Sock 1

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

a suitably awesome angel

As I mentioned yesterday there seems to be a dearth of good angels to be coloured in. So it took awhile but having realised that my husband is quite a good artist perhaps he could give us a hand. So here it is.

A suitably awe inspiring Gabriel bringing Mary the shocking news. If you like you could use it for an advent activity alongside a calendar. Feel free to contact me if you'd like the pdf file. Post a comment. However, I recommend just clicking on the image above, right click and choose 'save as'.

Monday, November 28, 2011

all aboard the advent calendar band wagon

Well it seems that every blogging mum out there has done their advent calendar post. For some beautiful ideas see here and the master of all advent stuff (creative and Christian) here. Well here's my contribution for those of you who might be running a bit behind as I am. I'm fortunate in that my friend Pamela made this beautiful quilted pocket calendar, so it looks pretty impressive right off the bat.

I wanted to find some wrapped lollies to put in the pockets. And found these at Aldi. There's the party pack of haribo gummy lollies. They also have the chocolate coins.

Obviously I want the calendar to be about more than just lollies. There are a whole bunch of collections of Bible verses and activities, or lists of more general holiday activities if that's more your thing. I've decided to go for these activities from be a fun mum's advent calendar activity template. So far it looks pretty good, especially for younger ones. However, I think I'll be adjusting things a little bit. Day 1 for example has a link to a colouring in page of an angel. To my taste however I like my angels a little more awe inspiring. I'm going to use the colouring pages from the following pdf booklet which seems pretty good until at least half way.

So here's the final product. Ready to start on Thursday.

All I needed was a piece of dowel and I'm using the coat hooks that usually hang over our bedroom door to hang the calendar in the kitchen.We are very excited and definitely getting in the mood for Christmas - which is what advent is all about.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

badger's birthday cake shenanigans

The key to making children's birthday cakes is resourcefulness. You inevitably end up making the cake very late at night. And something always goes wrong. I was endeavouring to make 'Wally the Whale' from The Australian Women's Weekly Birthday Cake Cookbook. You can find other more successful attempts here and here. But needless to say, Badger's cake does not bear much of a resemblance.

The underlying cake structure for Wally the Whale is a very large rectangle. I was endeavouring to make sure that my cake was nice and flat so left it in the oven to slowly cool overnight. Unfortunately I forgot that I tried the same thing last year and that it's very hard to get a cake out of a tin the next morning. It's best to do it sooner rather than later.

So unfortunately a vertical half of the cake was all that came out intact. Here's the detritus of what was left behind.

Not to worry though because one long strip of cake is all that's needed to make a one which was all that was required in Badger's case. The artist husband helped to shape the one (which I think looks like the ones in channel 11) although Giggi the 4yo did think it looked like a 7. We also managed to find pretty special looking chocolate tools, so all of a sudden we have a Bob the Builder cake - the yellow of the icing didn't quite come out in the photo. A few m&ms and hey presto we have a cake that looks like we made a bit of an effort although it doesn't much resemble the initial inspiration. Never mind.

It all looks pretty spesh once you add a candle....

Friday, November 25, 2011

these lobster socks rock

I'm so excited to be able to blog about these socks. I'm thrilled with how they came out. These socks are a part of the Great Sock Gift Project 2011-12 and are for my beautiful sister. They are an interesting rib that are supposed to bring to mind the hedgerows of country England. An idea that was a little bit lost when I chose lobster coloured yarn. But I love the colour and I love how the rib goes right down the back of the heel.

They also have a rounded toe rather than a wedge toe which I find quite appealing.

I've gone a bit overboard with all the photos. But I just love love love these socks.

I've ravelled the socks here. And the free pattern is available here. I should mention the designer is called Jane Cochran and I think she is just so talented. These are currently my favourite textured socks - a bit more interesting to knit than a basic rib but not too hard.

I was also knitting them at the same time as I had these beautiful roses. And I think I must have a thing for this colour at the moment.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

here we go again

Well I don't have much to report for wip wedneseday. I finished another pair in the Great Sock Gift Project 2011-12, which I hope to be able to reveal soon.

So I went back to my cute raspberry ribbed socks. After having finished another sock with the same wool I'm convinced I was using needles too big to suit the wool. So I frogged the whole lot. Better to start again now and have socks that will wear better. I'm also making a bigger size to account for the smaller needles, plus the previous sock was looking a little on the tight side.

Not sure if it's possible to see much of a difference but here goes:

old sock

new sock

I think the pooling works better with the larger number of stitches in the round too... We'll see.

The good news is that in the last 6 days I've managed to get back to where I was and now only have about 3 inches of the leg to go. Better get knitting.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"micro" a must have

Our branch church had their fair last Sunday. There was a remarkable display of amazing quilts, baked goods and all sorts of things. The bargain of the day however was some of the beautiful local produce. For $4.50 I managed to score 8 parsnips, a brocolli and half a shopping bag of micro pea shoots. Now I'm trying to muster all the salad recipes I can to make use of the pea shoots. I must admit to being a masterchef tragic, as soon as they said "micro" I was resolved to give it a try.

This was last night's attempt:

Ingredients: the micro pea shoots, coriander leaves, orange segments, avocado, radishes (of course), and a dressing made of juice of half an orange, 2 tsp grainy mustard and a splash of extra virgin olive oil all whisked together.


I served it with chicken drumsticks roasted without the skins for 90mins at 180C.

Mini-mods: no salad leaves or dressing and a dinner roll.

Verdict: everyone enjoyed it and it was a lovely fresh take on roast chicken.

Monday, November 21, 2011

reformer pilates

It's a really effective way of doing pilates. Love it. It's just that the name makes me giggle. The visual is a bit too much...

hair style dilemmas

Aaarrrggghhh finally found a good hairdresser nearby and we're moving again. I'm wondering whether I can fit in another haircut before Christmas. Seems a little extravagant, since I'm lucky if I get my hair cut every 3 months usually, but they are such good value.

Anyway if you're ever in outer southeast melbourne, look up Rhiannon at Stag Hair Studio, Cranbourne.

Here's a picture care of the multi-talented Laurence.

I'm thinking that next time I might let the hairdresser loose to do whatever she thinks might suit. I think my only restrictions are no shaving and no colouring. Is there anything else I've overlooked?

zingy radishes

Previously I had shared my dilemma regarding what to do with my leftover bunch of radishes. Well I've managed to find a few suggestions in case you ever are in the same predicament.

1) definitely try the sushi salad from delicious. magazine
2) sliced in thin rounds they're good in almost any salad
3) they make an awesome dressing for oysters. Finely grate the radish and macerate in white wine vinegar for an hour. Thanks Stephanie Alexander for that one.
4) finely slice and add to a roast lamb and tomato sandwich


Sunday, November 20, 2011

conversing with strangers

I wish I was better at striking up conversations with strangers. Who knows where the conversation will lead? But so often I don't know where to start. Weirdly, sock knitting has opened up all sorts of conversations at the doctors' waiting room, the hairdressers', who knows where next. Now to make sure that I'm an evangelist of Jesus and not sock knitting...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

any day now

So, in light of my previous post (and just generally) I am trying to keep thinking of ways to be more conscious of my true home. And along to the rescue came my youth Bible study group. We were up to looking at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. There's nothing like being reminded that Jesus might return any day now to get you thinking about your true home.

The passage makes two great points about Jesus' second coming, that it will be
1) unmistakeable
with all the trumpets sounding and the archangel calling and us rising in the air to meet him, we don't need to worry that it might happen without us realising
2) unexpected
it could happen any day now, so we've got to be ready

In light of Jesus' imminent return, Paul urges the Thessalonians to be alert, sober and self-controlled. None of which I find easy to do in my current sleep deprived season of life. But this week I've tried to just take some time out in the midst of what I'm doing to think of what it would be like if Jesus returned later that day. I'm not sure that at this stage it radically changes the mundane tasks that I have to do, but I'm praying that it will change my attitude and that I can pass this awareness on to my boys.

Any other suggestions???

Friday, November 18, 2011

an easy yummy lunch

One of our favourite lunches at the moment is baked asparagus on bread with poached eggs. My poaching could do with a little perfecting but it was still yummy.


We had some delicious swiss bread in the freezer. Thanks Z.

And the asparagus is sensational at the moment. Seasonal produce at its best.

Roasting the asparagus is pretty straightforward. Drizzle asparagus with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Bake at 180C for 10mins or if really thick like these ones more like 20mins. Then sprinkle with parmesan when finished.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

gorgeous gansey girl socks

Here we go another wednesday wip... I fear these socks are going to be a wip for quite some time... but they'll be worth it in the end. These are gansey girl socks and they are totally gorgeous. They're by Debbie O'Neill and available as a free ravelry download here.

The cuff is a beautiful. A little obscured by the slight fuzz of the wool.

Here you can see the contortions that I undergo for the perfect obscure angle shot. With an urgent baby's fist tugging at my trousers...

Crazy chart action.

Now the reason that these socks are going to take so long is
1) the small ply of the wool (3ply)
2) the resulting thinness of the needles (2.25mm to get gauge)
3) the complexity of the pattern. I've stuck the three charts together above. And the tricky thing will be that the charts won't line up the same way once you start doing repeats. Oh well, no chance of getting bored :)

Can't wait to really get stuck in to these.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

monkeying around

Here's my latest project completed and given away. I'm pretty happy with how they've worked out. The pattern is called Monkey Socks and they're by a well known sock pattern designer known as Cookie A. It's a free pattern available here. And I've ravelled my attempt here. It must be one of the most popular ravelry projects of all time, there are currently 14981 projects using this pattern posted on ravelry.

Anyway, I made this pair for a sister-in-law and they fit which is the main thing. This shibui sock wool was lovely to knit with and I love the shade (called Dragonfly). The only thing I don't love is the 'pooling'. It's the way that the colour variation has pooled into these wide stripes. It should be more like the colour variation around the heel.
It has a twisted stitches ribbed cuff which suits the lace really well. It also has a wedge toe and heel-flap. A technique I hope to keep using is to Ktbl into the stitches picked up along the flap sides when starting the gusset.
This is also my first attempt at a lace pattern of any kind. It really wasn't very hard at all. A good entry level project to the world of lace knitting. Now I hoping to attempt an Estonian Lace Shawl but that's another level all together. The most amazing book is the Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush, I'd love to try one of these. But that will have to be after the big sock gift project of 2011 - 12 is over... Anyway so far so good :-)

Monday, November 14, 2011

beautiful blooms

I'm marvelling at God's commitment to aesthetics :)

medical melbourne

One of the things I love about living in Melbourne is the after hours medical care. Most of the general practices seem to be linked up with a medical deputising service, which just means that you phone your medical practice and after hours it gets patched through to a deputising service and a gp will come to your house. And it's bulk billed!!!!!!!
You still need to wait for a couple of hours for a Dr to come, but at least you can wait in the comfort of your own home. Something we've had to do quite a bit as our kids' ear infections always seem to manifest on a Friday or Saturday evening.

There is also a super clinic about 15mins away which also has a 24hour pharmacy. Great for when you drop your baby panadol bottle on the tiles at 1am.

Friday, November 11, 2011

louisa and julia

I had intended to start this blog 22 months ago when we moved interstate. I wanted to be thoughtful about living in a new city and make the most of this new phase of life. But of course life was more hectic than I expected and harder than I cared to admit.

Part of the inspiration for this was having read My Life in France by Julia Child.
I find reading autobiographies a bit strange, but I guess whatever you read has its own biases. Although at least this book draws heavily on many letters written at the time (and obviously not intended for publication). Anyway I was happy to go with the flow and it seemed as though Child was pretty open about some hard times. It focuses on her time living in Paris (1948-1956) and how it radically changed her life.
But what I really loved was how Julia Child really embraced her move to a new city. She really tried to live like a local. She worked hard at learning the language and the customs. It changed how she cooked, how she shopped and how she entertained and made friends. And obviously she built an enormously successful career out of this immersion.

Now, I’ll admit there are a few differences between us and our life circumstances but as I’ve been settling in to life in Melbourne I’ve really tried to emulate this attitude. It has been made much easier by having wonderful family here as well as a new church family. But I can't help feeling a bit torn. The struggle continues to be how to be conscious daily of my true home, my heavenly home while enjoying the blessings of life in such a wonderful city.

Anyway, I hope to post some reflections on life in a new city over the next little while. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

w.i.p. wednesday

This is a crafting phenomenon which refers to 'work in progress' wednesday... where I can give you a sneak peak at how some of my knitting projects are progressing. Some will have to be more obscure than others...

First, here are some socks I'm working on for myself at the moment:

They’re called ‘on-your-toes socks’ by Ann Budd. It's a free pattern available here. They’re a pretty simple rib pattern that won’t get lost in the beautiful colour scheme of the yarn. They’re also an opportunity to try out some new techniques like starting your socks at the toe (most sock patterns start at the cuff) and also a short-row heel (rather than a heel flap). 

Here's the cool toe.                          And the short row heel.

They're on hold at the moment while I work on some more pressing projects, but I've almost finished the first sock. :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

sushi deconstruction

So I think this will be the last gourmet post for the week, back to some plain fare for the next few days. Tonight's taste sensation was sushi for the kids and sushi de-constructed for the adults.

recipe: sushi rice salad
source: delicious. November 2011

outer suburbia mods: swapped
- sesame seeds for nigella seeds (!?!?!)
- freshly podded peas for edamame beans
- smoked salmon and prawns for sashimi grade salmon

the kid's sushi was quickly de-constructed too :-)

verdict: I prefer sushi but this is heaps less fiddly. Plus it might be more interesting if I had all the right ingredients....

PS what am I going to do with the rest of my bunch of radishes????

addicted to sock knitting

I've been knitting for a while now. Mainly children's jumpers (they're quick and you can be sure they'll fit them at some stage), and accessories such as scarves and hats. But to tell you the truth I was intimidated by socks plus I didn't much see the point (I don't wear socks that often and you can just buy them quite cheaply). Well obviously that's all changed.

This is because
- they're easy to transport around
- they don't take that long to make
- they make a good gift for the person who has everything
- you can try out a new technique without committing to a large project
- I was nervous about using DPNs
- of the sense of achievement in facing your fears

So my not so secret project is to knit socks for some of the significant people in my life. I'll post a picture once they've been gifted. And you can wait with bated breath to see if there's one on the way for you :)

Here's a picture of the first pair of socks that I ever knitted. I've ravelled them here. I'm really very happy with them.

I currently have four pairs on the go which I think is a little excessive. I'm looking forward to completing some of them soon.

Monday, November 7, 2011

the big pizza cook-off: authentico vs delicious.

We've been making our own pizzas for awhile now. But we just keep coming back to a pizza with a basic napolitana sauce, salami, ham, mushrooms, capsicum, olives and pizza cheese. So it's stiff competition but the following pizza looked so yummy I thought we'd try something new.

Here's old faithful which Giggi and Badger were happy to eat.

The challenger:
recipe: John Wilson's taleggio & thyme pizza
source: delicious., November 2011

mods: way too much oil and cheese in the recipe, although I did tear the cheese too small. Also I couldn't find any taleggio so I went with another soft washed-rind cheese

verdict: we all preferred the original... although I do think I should give it another go with bigger chunks of the cheese...

BTW still going strong with the Norved's dough recipe. And we're loving the pizza stone for extra crispy pizza.

delicious. adventures part 2

I've been looking forward to trying this recipe for awhile but something our suburb lacks is a fish shop. Anyway, I noticed that Coles sold mussels so I thought I'd give it a go. It was fortunate that I checked with Stephanie Alexander (the cooks companion) before starting the preparation otherwise I might have poisoned us all or thrown out mussels that were still alive.

preperation: de-bearding the mussels was pretty self evident. Then while soaking in cold water you need to check if any of the mussels have already died - if any of the shells are already open. But you need to tap on the shell first to see if it will close in which case you can keep it. I think I had to discard 4 or 5 at this stage. Then after they're cooked, take out all the mussels that have opened, but give the ones that are still closed another 5 minutes or so - by which stage we only had to turf 1.... Anyway, the recipe didn't have any of this info, so I'm glad I checked...

recipe: mussels and cherry tomato risotto
you can find the recipe on-line here
source: delicious. August 2011

verdict: Giggi was happy to try a mussel (particularly after having helped me de-beard and tap them in the preparation) and declared that he liked them. Badger ate the risotto so I was happy with that.
I loved it. The mussels were delicious and it was nice to eat a risotto that wasn't cheesy. It was a little more healthy than the average risotto as well. As an oven risotto I thought it worked really well and wasn't very labour intensive at all.

Here's a close up of the beautiful locally grown produce: the truss tomatoes and the parsley are from market.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

next best thing

One of the by-products of moving around so much this year is a lack of a veggie patch. Here’s what I’ve managed to salvage to pots. But I’m not so inspired by it.

The grand sum of my food related plants = strawberry, rhubarb, chillies, rosemary...

Fortunately nearby we have a fabulous fruit and vege market, called market. 

It’s only open Wednesday to Saturday, but, it has a wonderful locally grown produce section.

The rest of the food is all grown in Australia. 

It also has a pretty good deli and dry goods selection (mainly Italian and some Asian products). Including the obligatory ridiculously large tins of oil and tomatoes. Yes that does say 2.5kg...

Now just to be organised enough to actually shop there. Wednesday here I come.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A dinner winner for everyone

I was fortunate enough to receive a subscription of delicious. magazine for my birthday this year. But I must admit that I haven't been making full use of this wonderful gift. So far all we'd done was the Christmas in July menu from the June edition (which was fantastic by the way, especially the coleslaw and the pork roast stuffing).

So now I'm intending to make amends and get cracking on some of the great recipes but, and here's the kicker, also making them successful for the whole family. And tonight's attempt was a winner.

Recipe: Jill Dupleix's hot and sour noodle soup with minced chicken
Source: delicious. July 2011.

Loved the hot and sour flavours, all balanced nicely. Also added more noodles and prawns than the recipe suggested.

Mini Mods: Gigi and Badger had pan fried prawns and chicken meatballs (I added bread crumbs and tomato sauce to the chicken mince), rice noodles and broccolini.

Verdict: eaten by all, happy days :)