Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Checking In

I'm back from a few days away for Christmas. We stayed in a lovely little cottage in Greytown in the Wairarapa. It was lovely and private, with tame chickens roaming in the garden. Apart from Christmas Eve, the weather was perfect and we were able to fit in a couple of runs in Greytown park plus visits to the Putangirua Pinnacles, Cape Palliser lighthouse and Mt Bruce wildlife centre. Plus plenty of lazing around, eating, knitting and board games of course.

Greytown Christmas mosaic

I won't be blogging much in the next few days as we are trying to paint the outside of our house while the weather is nice (a much bigger job than I'd expected, but it will be good to get it done). I'll be back in the New Year to share some finished knitting projects. I hope you're enjoying your Christmas break, perhaps getting some crafting done and keeping cool or warm wherever you are.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Berry tart

Vegan fruit tart

One of the things I love about this time of year is the fruit - berries, stonefruit, melons. Yum! I must investigate planting some berries in our garden so we can have homegrown ones next year. The berries above just came from the supermarket, but they made a rather nice vegan fruit tart. We had some friends over on Saturday night for a pre-Christmas get-together and I made the tart for dessert. Recipe once again was from The Joy of Vegan Baking.

We are off to the Wairarapa tomorrow for a relaxing, quiet Christmas by ourselves. Normally on Christmas Eve we are packing up the car and making the long slow drive up the country to my family in Rotorua. This year we thought it would be nice to have some time away together close to home before the rush of study and work starts again in early January. I'll be taking a blog break at the same time. Merry Christmas to you and yours. See you in a couple of weeks.

PS: totally unrelated, but I think this must be the coolest thing I've seen this week

Monday, 22 December 2008

Ornament Swap Roundup

Some of you may have already seen these in the flickr pool, but I wanted to share them here as well. I've now received all the ornaments from my swap group, plus a few extras:

Group 1 Ornaments
Above are the ornaments from my group: Robot from Jenny, Angel from Helen, Flower from Jessicah, Bauble from Nikki, Owlaments and Stocking from Dione and Pohutukawa made by me. Thanks ladies, they are lovely! Also special thanks to Jessicah for including some vegan chocolate (mmm Whittaker's dark, my favourite) and vintage buttons in her parcel. And to Dione for filling her knitted stocking with more vintage buttons!


Bonus ornaments
I also received some bonus ornaments to thank me for organising the swap - these gorgeous snowflakes from Marrianne and cute little present from Mel. Aww guys, thanks so much!

You are a talented bunch - my tree is full of handmade loveliness! Thanks also to everyone who participated. In the end I had 38 people sign up - way more than I expected. Since it went so well this time, I'm planning on running the swap again next year.

The flickr pool is looking great. If you haven't yet uploaded any photos of your ornaments, please do, so that we can all admire them. And if you participated but aren't on flickr, please feel free to email me a photo of your ornaments and I'll post it on the group so we can all share in the Christmas crafty goodness.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Baby Dresses

I made a couple of dresses for my cute niece for Christmas. She'll be 2 1/2 months on Christmas day so I made what I thought was the 3-6 month size, but they still look huge. I think she'll have to grow into them...

Strawberry baby dress
Strawberry baby dress
Tulip baby dress
Tulip baby dress

I really like these styles of dress. Once they are too short to be dresses anymore they can be worn as tunic tops. They are both different views of Butterick 4784, dated 1987. I picked up the pattern from the op-shop for 50c a few months ago. The yellow strawberry dress is made from Japanese fabric that a friend brought back for me from Kyoto. The tulips fabric was on the sale table at Spotlight a few weeks ago (I love $4/m fabric!). Because I already had the fabric in my stash, the only thing I needed to buy was the cute lime green buttons for the tulip dress. Apologies for the bad light in the photos. I took these at night just before I wrapped them up.

The strawberry dress, with all that homemade bias, was a bit fiddly to make, but I whipped up the tulip one pretty quickly. I'm planning to slightly tweak the pattern and then make some more of the tulip style ones and put them up in the shop in early January.

I've now received all of my ornaments for the swap, plus a few bonus ones. Pictures tomorrow.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

First sale

I made my first sale in my felt store yesterday! You should have seen me - I was so excited you'd think I'd won Lotto.

To celebrate, I've uploaded the last of my current stock to the shop: some appliqued baby tshirts (some of which match the shoes and bibs already for sale), and a couple of cosmetic bags/small purses.

Baby tshirts

Pink leaves cosmetic bag

IMG_7246


I'm working on a few new design ideas at the moment, but with the rush of Christmas, I don't think I'll be updating the store again until early January.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Recovered

Pohutukawa flower

Thanks for the offers of help to try and revive our external hard-drive. The blogworld really came to my rescue this time. Thanks to Steph's very talented boyfriend Dave, our photos have been recovered, mostly unharmed and a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. We have learnt our lesson and now have copies on our new external hard-drive plus two sets of backups on DVD (one set now kept at Alex's work). I really believed we had lost most of our photos from the last two years. As well as the holiday snaps, photos from family get-togethers and photos of our beloved moggie Frank who died 18 months ago, I'm also pleased to have all my random craft and garden photos back. Like the one above, taken in our garden a couple of years ago.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Christmas ornaments

Wrapped Ornaments

I think everyone in my group has received their ornaments, so it's safe to post a picture of what I made for the handmade ornament swap.

Pohutukawa ornaments

I decided to go with Pohutukawa flowers since they symbolise Christmas to me in New Zealand. For anyone reading this from overseas, the pohutukawa is a native New Zealand tree that grows by the sea and flowers in December. It is known as the New Zealand Christmas tree. I noticed last weekend that a few trees are already flowering on Petone beach, and the one in our backyard is about to start flowering. I love how the crimson red stamens (or are they petals?) end up strewn about our lawn.

The ornaments are hand-stitched from felt and some ribbon I picked up in London in June. I had to re-teach myself blanket stitch to make these, so some of the stitching is a bit wonky, but it adds to the charm I think. I made the bags the ornaments were wrapped in with paper that I'd potato stamped. I don't think I've done potato stamping since I was a child! It was a lot of fun and in addition to the brown paper, I also stamped some plain calico that I'm planning to use for another project.

Once I've received all my ornaments, I'll post a picture of them together. I've received three so far and they are fantastic!

Unrelated, does anyone have a recommendation for a file recovery specialist in Wellington? Our not-quite-two-year-old external hard-drive chose yesterday as its day to die and we have some photos on there that are not stored anywhere else. We do have quite a few stored on DVDs and printouts of some, but there are still a lot that I had yet to back-up. Any recommendations for experts who can help would be appreciated! And if any of you have photos that are not backed up, my advice would be to burn them to DVDs right now. I felt sick when I realised we might have lost our photos.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

At Long Last

baby shoes

Bing-bong! Attention blog readers. The Twenty Cent Mixture Shop is now open for business.

Yes, that's right. After months of talking about it, I actually got round to listing some of my craft for sale online. I've opted to go with felt rather than etsy, due mainly to the bad state of the NZ dollar against the US dollar at present, plus I figured most buyers would be NZ-based. I'm currently sorting out the process for international buyers.

I'll be listing more items in the next few days, but at the moment there are baby shoes (all the pairs in the photo above are for sale), bibs and a couple of bags in there. Go on, have a nosey, you know you want to!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Vegan Carrot Muffins

Vegan carrot muffins with soy cream cheese icing

I'm still learning about vegan baking, and to help me get some practice, I've been whipping up batches of muffins at the weekend that we can freeze and then Alex can take them to work in his lunch. I am hopeless with baking and if it is there I will just snack on it until it's gone, so it's great I have someone else who will happily eat the spoils of my experiments in the kitchen.

These carrot cake muffins are my latest effort and I think they turned out pretty well. They are quite dense and the vegan cream cheese icing is very similar to the dairy version I used to make. The recipe is adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. If you are interested in vegan baking or baking for those who are intolerant to eggs or dairy, I can highly recommend this book. It has a lot of great basics such as breads, cakes, muffins and cookies plus more dessert-y things like pies, mousses, puddings and cheesecakes. I finally bought my own copy last week after renewing a copy from our local library several times.

The recipe below is the one I used and is slightly adapted from the one in the book, but you could probably use your favourite carrot cake recipe and just replace the eggs with either egg replacer or ground flaxseeds/linseeds (for each egg you replace whisk 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds with 3 tablespoons of water in a blender or food processor until the mixture is thick and creamy).

Vegan Carrot Cake Muffins
3 tbsp ground flaxseeds/linseeds (I buy my linseeds from Commonsense Organics and grind them myself in a coffee grinder I use for spices etc)
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup oil
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
3/4 cup raisins or sultanas
1 1/3 cups white flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice

1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Grease your muffin tin (this recipe made 12 standard size muffins).
2. In a blender or food processor, whip together the flaxseed and water until thick and creamy. Transfer this to a medium-sized bowl and add the carrots, raisins/sultanas and walnuts if using. Mix together.
3. In a larger bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Batter will be quite thick.
4. Scoop batter into muffin tins. Bake 25-30 mins. Let cool in pan then remove to cooling racks. Once cool, ice with cream cheese icing.

Vegan Cream Cheese Icing
250g soy cream cheese (I used Kings brand from Commonsense Organics)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sifted icing sugar

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or mixer until smooth and creamy. Enough to ice 12 muffins.

And while we're on the topic of vegan baking, I just today discovered that Desserts magazine published an entire issue devoted to vegan desserts, and the magazine is free to view or download here. Beware - the pictures of desserts may cause drooling on keyboard!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Garden happenings

Passion flower

With the spring weather has come a few changes in the garden. The most exciting for me was spotting the first flower on our young passionfruit vine (planted in mid-2007) last week. I'm looking forward to a small crop of fruit in the new year.

The peas are also starting to flower and the tomato plants, bean vines and leafy greens (silverbeet, spinach, kale, rocket, mizuna, pak choy) are coming along nicely. I'm hoping for a good crop of summer veges this year.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Crafting for a cause

newborn caps for Mama to Mama project
These newborn caps are for the Caps to Cap-Haitien Project, organised by Mama to Mama. The caps are for newborns and will be included in safe birthing kits to be distributed by traditional birthing attendants in Northern Haiti.

Amanda of Soule Mama set up Mama to Mama to promote simple ways that us crafty people can use our skills to improve the lives of others. The newborn cap project is the first Mama to Mama project. If you'd like to learn more or get involved, you can read about the project and find the pattern for the caps here. The caps are easy to make and are meant to be made from old tshirts, so it's a good way to recycle/repurpose and spread some handmade love at the same time. The project is also asking for cotton receiving blankets. Instructions are on the same site. The caps and blankets are due in Maine, USA by 10th December.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Couple of things

red necklace

I've got a bit of a cold this week, and am suffering from brain fog, so the best I can manage today is a list of random items sorry...

1. The winner of the tote bag in my one year blogiversary giveaway is Lucy from Speckled Egg. Congratulations! I've only been reading Lucy's great blog for a few weeks (since she signed up for the ornament swap) but I'm really enjoying reading about all the wonderful stuff she makes - including making soap last week! And she is so organised she's even finished her ornaments for the swap already. I'm seriously behind, but I'm hoping to make some progress next week on my ornaments.

2. I have been wearing the wonderful red beads in the photo above almost constantly since I got them on Sunday. I received the necklace in a swap I did with the lovely Kimberley of Special K. I made her some baby shoes for her cute little boy Harper and in return I choose one of her scrummy necklaces. Thanks K, I love it!

3. The Big Schwop is happening again in Wellington on the 29th November. This is your chance to clear your wardrobe of clothes you aren't wearing and score yourself some cool new things. Spaces are limited to 300 schwoppers, so make sure you sign up on the website so you don't miss out.

4. My few days away in Melbourne were great. The wedding itself was in Torquay and I didn't get time to visit any craft places this time, though I did manage to get to Vegan Wares for some new shoes. And I discovered a cool organic cafe/deli that serves scrummy vegan food, right in the CBD - details to come in another post.

Hope you're all having a good week!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Happy Blogiversary

I realised a little while ago that my blog turned 1 at the start of October. I think a belated giveaway to celebrate is in order.

tote bag

This tote is made from black cotton drill and red Matroyska print Japanese craft cotton and is lined with a soft grey cotton poplin. It measures approx 16" by 13" and the handles are 18" long. I really like this size of bag for shopping, library books or just carting around your essentials.

To win it, leave a comment on this post by Friday 14th November. I'm taking a bit of a blog break this week to go to Melbourne for my brother-in-law's wedding. I'll be back on board next week to announce the winner of the tote bag.

Edited to add: I sent out the group details for the ornament swap on Sunday night around 8.15pm. If you have signed up and not yet received an email from me, please check your spam folder as I have heard that my emails are getting filtered for some people.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Strawberries for jam

Strawberries for jam

Don't these look delicious? Strawberries are at their best at the moment and I picked some up on special to make a batch of jam. They looked so lovely that I couldn't resist doing a photo shoot before I chopped them up.

Thanks for all the interest in the ornament swap. I will be collating the groups today and should hopefully be able to email you your group details tomorrow. If you have signed up by sending me an email with your address details and you do not get an email from me with your group details by Tuesday, then please contact me.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

A red robot

A few weeks ago I had an email from the lovely and clever Miss Smith asking if I wanted to swap some of my baby shoes for one of her robots. I have been coveting her wonderful robots for a while now and so I jumped at the chance to do my first ever "proper" swap. I asked for a red robot that could keep me company while I'm sewing and I've been eagerly awaiting his arrival.

Yesterday a parcel arrived in the post, along with a note of introduction for Mr Red:

Swap parcel

Note of introduction

And true to his programming, last night I found him diligently rethreading my overlocker:

Helping with my sewing


And this morning, he'd gotten up early to warm my teacup:

Cuppa tea?

Thanks Miss Smith, he is wonderful! I think I'm going to enjoy having a robot in the house...

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Kiwi Handmade Christmas Ornament Swap

For the last few years, a couple of craft bloggers in the US have run a huge handmade Christmas ornament swap. I found out about it too late to participate last year and have been thinking about signing up this year, but the cost of international postage has made me a bit reluctant to join in.

I mentioned this to Nikki last week at the Juniper craft night and she suggested I should run a New Zealand based swap instead. I’m hoping that there are some more of you out there who love handmade ornaments as much as me and want to participate.

Here are the guidelines:

1. Sign-up by sending me an email to luubeeluu at gmail dot com. You need to include your name and snail mail address, plus your blog if you have one. Signups will close on Friday 7th November. Sorry, but to limit postage costs, this swap will only be open to New Zealand residents.

2. I will assign you into a small group of 6-8 people and send you the addresses of everyone in your group. I will not send your address to anyone else.

3. You need to come up with an ornament design that you can easily replicate – it can be crafted however you like (knit, sew, crochet, embroider, print, gocco, paint etc), but it must be handmade.

4. Make enough ornaments for your group, and post one ornament to each person by Friday 12th December.

5. Sit back and wait to receive some wonderful handmade ornaments in the post just in time for Christmas.

If you need some inspiration for ideas, have a browse through the flickr group for the 2007 US swap.

This is the first swap I've run, so any swap veterans out there please let me know if I've missed anything.

Edit: Sign-ups now closed. Thanks for all the interest. I will email out the details for your group on Sunday 9th November.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Quickfire Craft

On Sunday I was in need of some quick craft gratification - the sort where you can finish a project in one sitting. And I managed two in just under two hours.

Mum mentioned that my new niece likes to be swaddled, and with the cold weather we've had in the past week or so, I thought a merino wrap would be ideal. I had some jade green really soft merino knit in my stash leftover from another project. After consulting with another friend about the ideal size for baby wraps, I cut it into a square approx 100cm on each side. I used a dinnerplate as a template for the rounded corners, then finished the edges with the overlocker. Done.

Merino baby wrap

And for no other reason except that I wanted to use some of the ribbons I bought overseas earlier in the year, I made a little ribbon tag blanket for her as well. I first heard about these on Craftster. Apparently babies like to play with the ribbon tags. I choose velvet, grosgrain and satin ribbons plus some ric-rac so there are a variety of textures. The main part of the blanket measures approx 30cm square. I think it turned out rather cute, don't you?

Taggie blanket

While we're on the subject, I just have to mention the new Dad present I got my brother - a CD of lullabies incorporating the tunes from Metallica songs (yes really). It appealed to the former teenage bogan in me and I've been waiting to buy it for someone who will appreciate it. I think it will go down well. And who knows, maybe the baby will like it too.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Yum

Dinner

I've got a few crafty things to show you later in the week, but I couldn't resist sharing this photo of our dinner last night. I made a spinach-basil-walnut pesto (minus the parmesan) and stirred it through cooked pasta, potatoes and peas. It looked so nice and tasted delicious. The recipe was adapted from a great cookbook called Vegan Italiano. The original recipe called for green beans rather than peas, and linguine rather than spirals, but I think my version worked quite well. There's some pesto leftover which I think I'll use in a salad later in the week.

I've just realised today that my one-year blogiversary came and went a couple of weeks ago. Stay tuned for a belated giveaway celebration sometime next week.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Ch-ch-ch-changes

bedside table reading

The pile of library books on my bedside table show what I've been occupied with lately.

First of all, I've made a decision to go back to university next January and study for a Post Graduate Diploma in Primary Teaching (one year full-time). Teaching has always been something that I've thought about doing "at some stage". My mother is a primary school teacher, so I've been around teachers a lot and I have always enjoyed working with children. I've been wanting a change from my current job for a wee while now, and this is the ideal time to go back to full-time study, before we have children of our own. I'm going into it with my eyes open hopefully - I spent some time in my mother's classroom a few months ago and I've also been training as a Brownie (young girl guides) leader since August, so I know I'm comfortable with larger groups of children. It's a big change for me, but it's exciting too and I'm really looking forward to it.

The other big change in our lives in the last few weeks is that Alex and I have decided to make the shift from being vegetarian to going fully vegan. It's not something I ever thought I would do - it always seemed too hard to give up dairy, but I've discovered it's a lot easier than you'd think. In the past few months we've been listening to a wonderful podcast called Vegetarian Food for Thought (which I found out about through a Ravelry group forum - everything leads back to craft I tell you), which played a big role in our decision to change. Each episode of the podcast addresses different topics related to being vegetarian/vegan, including favourite foods, nutrition, cooking and animal rights. I'd highly recommend the podcast to anyone who is curious about these issues. The woman who presents it, Colleen Patrick-Godreau, is very articulate and passionate about her cause without being preachy and makes you feel like you can make a difference. Having said that, it still took us a few months of listening to the podcast, reading books about nutrition and food ethics, and some serious thought before we made the change a few weeks ago. So far it is going great. We're trying lots of new foods and I'm currently relearning how to bake without eggs or dairy (again, much easier than you'd think). I'll keep you posted on progress and post some photos in the coming weeks.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Just call me Aunty Lou

My gorgeous niece Ella arrived safe and sound yesterday afternoon.

I'm looking forward to some cuddles when we go up to Rotorua to visit her in a couple of weeks.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Craft2.0 sum-up

Craft 2.0 October 11th

Yay - it's over! I had a great time at Craft2.0 on Saturday. Because of the sunny weather there were less people through than at some of the earlier fairs, but I still managed to sell quite a bit of stuff. I do have about half of it left over though (I wanted to have too much rather than not enough), so once I get time to photograph it, the online shop will be opening.

Late nights beforehand meant I was in serious need of caffiene at set-up time, but I brought my crafty helper-fairy (Alex) along to help me and sent him off in search of coffee while I set up my stall. I had a dream the night before that I didn't sell anything all day, but my first sale of a bib, shoes and a tshirt made me feel much better!

Thanks to those of you that came by to say hello (Nikki, Tash, Martha, Rochelle, Kimberley, Sharron). It was nice to catch up and meet some of you in person for the first time. I'll happily do another fair in the future, but not for a while yet. I need time to recover and my sewing machine is suffering from overuse I think - it's making a weird ker-chunk ker-chunk noise that makes me think it's time for a service...

Friday, 10 October 2008

Sneak Peak

Craft2.0 is tomorrow! If you are nearby, try and drop in to The New Dowse between 10am and 3pm tomorrow. Get some early Christmas shopping done. Or buy yourself a present just because. And if you do go along, make sure you come by my stall and say hi.

Over the past week or so, the Craft2.0 blog has been profiling some of the crafters who will be there tomorrow. Click on this link to check them out. Below is a mosaic of some of the stuff that will be for sale tomorrow. And below that is a sneak peak of some of the stuff I'll be taking with me. I'll be back next week with a full post-fair rundown and hopefully some pictures of all the crafty goodness for you.

Have a good weekend!




Baby shoes

Baby shoes

Bibs

Zipped pouches

Friday, 3 October 2008

Making progress

Sorry for the blog absence. I have been pretty busy preparing for Craft2.0 next weekend. My stock is slowly coming together, but I still have a whole lot of sewing to do between now and then. At this stage I'll be taking baby shoes, bibs, appliqued baby tshirts, small zipped pouches and tote bags. I'm really worried that I won't have enough stock, so I'm probably making too much of everything, but I figure the leftovers can be used to open my much-talked-about but not-yet-started Etsy shop.
Here are some pictures of my progress from the last week or so:
My sewing table piled up with WIPs and fabric

Carrybags made from recycled picture books, using Melissa's great tutorial here

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Kiwiana Stamps

I've been meaning to post about these new A-Z of New Zealand stamps since they were released about 6 weeks ago. Each stamp has a picture of something "kiwiana" that starts with that letter. Hopefully the image is big enough for you to read. If not, I think you should be able to click on it to see a larger version. My current favourites are F for fantail, E for Edmonds and G for Goodnight Kiwi. Very cool. I bought the whole sheet and I'm planning to pop it in a frame to hang in the hallway.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Matching Set

Made for baby Maia Rose, born 10 days ago. She was very obliging with newborn cuddles yesterday.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Random Friday

A few things I’ve been meaning to tell you about:

* Fabric Barn on High Street in Lower Hutt is having a 50% off sale off all of their fabrics and most of their patterns. Sale ends next Wednesday. I stocked up on a whole lot of flannel to use for interfacing – half price is $3 per metre. Woot!

* The next Juniper Lucky Dip craft night is on October 22nd and will be the last one for the year. Apparently the theme is Christmas. Sign up now if you haven’t already. Should be a fun night.

* The lovely and clever Helen at Stripy Sock Studio has started a clothing swap group on flickr for kiwi girls who want to update their wardrobes without spending a lot but don’t want to buy new from chain stores or deal with the hassle of online auctions. Fab eco-friendly idea I reckon! Its since expanded to include sewing patterns and fabric for those of us who like to DIY our wardrobes.

* Oh no - the end of Snifters, Tangy Fruits and Sparkles is nigh. What will be in the Twenty Cent Mixtures of the future?

Have a good weekend everyone. On Monday I should be able to post a few pictures of my progress on stock for Craft2.0.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Pink Overload

Apologies for the unplanned blog break. I went to Rotorua for the weekend to catch up with family and go to my sister-in-law's baby shower. Her baby girl will be the first grandchild in my family and everyone is very excited. She received a whole lot of wonderful pink things at the shower, so the present I made her fitted right in:

Bibs and matching reversible baby shoes (see my new label on the bibs? I'm quite proud of it)

Reversible baby shoes

I may be a bit quiet on the crafting front for a few weeks. I've just found out that I have a stall at the next Craft2.0 on October 11th, so most of my spare time will be spent making things for the stall. This will be my first stall and I'm a bit nervous about making sure I have enough stock. I will pop in from time to time to update you on progress.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Olives

We have three big olive trees in our backyard, but we usually leave the fruit to the birds (Wax-Eyes especially seem to love gorging themselves on olives). But earlier this year I saw some instructions for preserving your own olives in the NZ Gardener magazine and decided to give it a go.

The steps themselves are pretty simple, but the process is time-consuming. Before you even bottle the olives you have to remove some of their bitterness. The easiest way to do this is to soak them in water for a reasonable length of time, changing the water often. Of course if you like crisp, bitter olives, you can bottle them in brine pretty much straight away.

I picked olives off two of our trees (large black fruit on one tree and smaller green/brown fruit on another tree) and soaked them for about 40 days in clean buckets in our laundry sink. I changed the water often, but it certainly wasn't every day. At the weekend I finally got around to reclaiming the sink and bottling the olives in brine. They now have to pickle for another three months before we can eat them. I'll update you once we try them.

I've had a couple of friends ask me why I would go to so much trouble when I could just pop to the shops and buy a jar of olives for $5. I'm hoping the proof is in the tasting...

Friday, 5 September 2008

New labels and some more knitting


Ooh, look what arrived in the mail yesterday - my new labels from Fancyweaver. They were quite reasonably priced and only took three weeks from the time I placed my order to arrive. After reading about these labels here and here, I knew to ask for extra space on either side of the text so I can easily sew them into seams. I did consider using a different name for my Etsy shop, but nothing I came up with really appealed, and I guess it's easier to just use my blog name. Looking forward to sewing these onto some new things this weekend.

And in knitting news, I've finished another couple of projects:

A shrug for me. The first thing I've knitted for myself that isn't a hat, scarf or gloves! I used this pattern, though I only used it as a guide for the shape. I read on Ravelry that a lot of people found that it came out too small, so I chose thicker wool (10ply), larger needles (8.5mm) and actually made a swatch (gasp!) to figure out my gauge and how many stitches to cast on. Since it's knitted in one piece from the top down it was easy to try it on part-way through to check the fit.


A baby beret. Modelled by Pooh Bear in the absence of a suitable model. This is a Sublime pattern from a new book I picked up on E-bay. Made from 8ply Naturally NZ Merino et Soie. We have a couple of friends who are due to have babies in the next few weeks, so I may give this to one of them if they have a girl.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Furry friends

While we were in Melbourne, we visited a wildlife park on the Mornington Penninsula south of Melbourne city. I've seen native Australian animals lots of times before, but I'm always fascinated by how unique they are. I especially like wombats with their cute waddle-ly walk. The park we went to wasn't particularly large, but it had quite a few animals, including some babies, and you were able to hand-feed the kangaroos and wallabies.

Here are a few photos from our visit:

Baby Koala - not great lighting sorry, but he was so cute. And his fur was really soft.

Me getting mobbed by kangaroos - they're after the bag of kangarooo food in my hand. By this stage everyone else had finished their food and I was the only one with any left.

Kangaroos relaxing

Sleepy wombat