Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Ornament swap roundup and Merry Christmas

Group 1 ornaments

I thought it was time to post a collage of all the wonderful ornaments I've received in this year's swap. Above are the ornaments from my group. The owl is from Lily's Make Believe, the knitted star is from Melly Muse, the Christmas purse is from Seven Stitches, the sequinned Christmas pudding is from Miss Millie and the embroidered heart and patchwork flower (actually a brooch that I'm hanging on the tree for now) are from NZFloss.

I've also received a few "bonus" ornaments from people to thank me for organising the swap. A collage of those is below. The pink bird is from Norma Tika, the blue bird is from Therese who lives in Palmerston North and the two knitted ornaments are from Minimiss. In addition, Cat Taylor sent me a lovely recycled paper garland which is currently adorning our mantelpiece.
Bonus ornaments

Thanks ladies for the wonderful ornaments! It was fun receiving all those parcels and getting a little surprise everytime I opened one. My tree is looking very festive and full of ornaments this year. The handmade ones don't quite out-number the bought ones yet, but they're getting close.

You can see more handmade ornament goodness in the ornament swap Flickr group.

I've got a few things on the Christmas to-do list still to complete, so I'll be starting my Christmas break from the computer today. Wishing you all a happy Christmas and best wishes for 2010!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Christmas craft

If anyone is still in the mood for Christmas crafts, there are a lot of tutorials and templates being posted in blogland. Here are a few I've favourited:

- 3D globe ornament made from recycled magazine pages at How About Orange.
- Another paper ball ornament from Design*Sponge
- Gingerbread houses made from milk cartons at Maya*Made
- Advent calendar made from cardboard tubes at Maya*Made (a bit late for this year, but maybe next year)
- Paper pieced patchwork ornaments at Petite Purls
- Circular Christmas Cloth Napkins at Craft Sanity
- Dragon Boat wrapped thread ornaments at Craft Sanity (video also here)
- Kiwiana gift tags at Simone Quentin de Manson
- Paper bow from recycled gift wrap at Momfetti
- Felt mitten ornament pattern from Oliver + S
- Easy Christmas Card ideas from Kids Craft Weekly (I've saved this to use with my class next year)
- Embroidered felt tree ornament from ghostmyst (she made these for last year's swap and then generously provided a tutorial)
- Crochet star ornaments from Odd Pear
- Simple knitted mini stocking ornaments from Little Cotton Rabbits

I don't think I'll get through all of these this year, but I'm going to try some of the simple ornament ideas in the next couple of days. I'll let you know how I get on...

Tuesday, 15 December 2009



Although it has been unseasonably wet recently, I think it has at least been good for the garden. It's just exploded with green in the last week or so.

raised vegetable beds

We moved our vegetable garden to a much sunnier spot in the backyard this year and it seems to have paid off. The raised garden beds are slot-together ones that we bought off TradeMe and they have been fabulous - much easier than building your own beds (at least for DIY-incompetents like us!).

In the bed in the front of the photo there's various lettuces and herbs, baby carrots, baby beetroot, kale, capsicum and wild strawberries. In the far bed I've planted beans, more capsicum, zucchini, tomatoes and a big 'ole rhubarb that I got from my Mum. The rhubarb is one that my Poppa grew from seed when my Mum was a baby. Various family members have kept it going for 50-odd years and now it's in my garden as well as my Mum's. Poppa swears it is a much better variety than the ones you can get from the garden centre today. And by the way it is taking over the garden (see below), I'd have to agree!

rhubarb taking over

This year I've also planted potatoes in plastic grow-bags, an idea that I think I first saw on Jamie at Home. You roll the sides of the bag right down when you first plant the seed potatoes, and as they grow, you roll up the sides of the bag and add more soil - much easier than mounding up the soil around them in an ordinary bed.

potatoes planted in grow-bags

I'm looking forward to harvesting some homegrown veges for Christmas dinner this year.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Handmade holidays

The ornament swap was featured in a lovely article in yesterday's Dominion Post. Kimberley was writing a story about handmade ornaments and asked me if she could write about the ornament swap. It's great to see craft getting more and more of a profile in mainstream media. The craft revolution is gaining ground!
Here is a photo of the article. Click here to open a larger version that will allow you to read it on screen (use the magnifying glass button). Special thanks to Helen and Miss Smith, whose ornaments from last year's swap feature in the pictures, and to Kimberley of course, for including the swap in her story.
Edit: thanks to those of you who let me know you couldn't see the version on Flickr. It appears that if you are not a Flickr member, you can't see the large versions. Grrr. I hopefully have resolved the issue now by using Picasa web albums to host the large version.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Christmas Matryoshkas

My ornament swap group should have received their ornaments by now, so I think it's safe to write about what I made this year. Way before I announced the swap, I'd decided to make little Matryoshkas, but I didn't really know how I'd make them. I toyed with the idea of knitting them, but sewing seemed much easier. I tried out a couple of ideas using felt, but they didn't quite look like I wanted. Then I stumbled across a pattern in a book from the library called Sew Pretty Christmas Homestyle. The pattern in the book was for little stuffed dolls to sit on a shelf, but I modified them to hang on a tree. I also significantly changed the method of construction to make them a bit easier to put together. I think they turned out pretty well.

Matryoshka ornaments for swap
I used craft cotton for the main parts of the dolls and felt, embroidery thread and seedbeads for their faces.

I also made some little gift bags to package them in. The bags and tags are made from brown paper (reused from packaging) and decorated with pieces of paper doily that I painted.

packaging them up

ready to post

I've started receiving some ornaments in the post and they are fantastic! I'll do a blog post next week with pictures of all of them. In the meantime, check out the wonderful ornaments already in the flickr group for the swap.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Cuteness for the kitchen

Matryoshka measuring cups

I picked up those Matryoshka measuring cups this week at Wanda Harland in Petone. I went into the shop looking for a birthday present for a friend and ended up buying a present for myself as well. Each half doll is a different sized measuring cup. As well as the standard 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup and 1/4 cup, the set includes 2/3 and 3/4 sized measures which is pretty handy. They can be nested to save space, but I like the look of the three of them sitting on my kitchen windowsill. And in case you're wondering, that's Molly the cat making an unplanned cameo in the background.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Christmas Mince Pies

One non-vegan Christmas treat I missed last year was Fruit Mince Pies. My nana used to make the scrummiest made-from-scratch mince pies, but of course the pastry was full of butter and the fruit mince probably contained suet. This year I decided to try and make a vegan version, and was pretty happy with the result:

Vegan Christmas Fruit Mince Pies

I used a super simple Alison Holst fruit mince recipe that contained dried fruit, apples, spices and brandy - all whizzed up in the food processor. For the sweet shortcrust pastry, I used this recipe, also made in the food processor. I used normal and mini muffin tins to make the two different sizes. They're not quite as buttery in flavour as I remember my nana's ones, but still pretty delicious. And great for an afternoon pre-Christmas treat along with a hot chocolate. And no, I did not eat all four by myself...

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Vegan Truffles!

vegan chocolate truffles
Now these are seriously more-ish. And all they contain is chocolate, cashew nuts and water, plus icing sugar to coat. How's that for easy? Back in my non-vegan days I made similar truffles using cream, butter and chocolate and I honestly think these taste just as good, if not better. The recipe is here at Vegan Zest for Life (another great NZ vegan blog), and the only real kitchen equipment requirement is a grunty food processor or blender to ensure you get the cashews and water blended really smoothly. I made a one-third batch to try out the recipe and I used my favourite dark chocolate, Whittaker's Dark Ghana, which, with 72% cocoa mass, turned out to be too rich. Next time I'll use their Bittersweet Dark chocolate (only 47% cocoa mass) and maybe add some flavourings (mint or orange maybe) and try out some different coatings (chopped nuts, chocolate hail, coconut). I can see this being a great go-to recipe for Christmas thank-you gifts this year.