Sunday, 25 October 2009

Handmade Christmas ornament swap for 2009

Edit: Sign-ups now closed. Thanks for all the interest! We have 56 participants this year. You should have an email with the details of your group by Sunday night.

Last year I ran a handmade Christmas ornament swap for kiwi participants. I had been wanting to participate in some of the US-based swaps, but the cost of international postage had put me off. The swap ended up being quite successful and I have decided to organise it again.

Here are the guidelines:

1. Sign-up by sending me an email to twentycentmixture 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 6th 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 6-7 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 (you can use a sewing machine though!).

4. Make enough ornaments for your group, and post one ornament to each person by Friday 11th 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 groups for last year's NZ swap and the 2008 US swap.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Craft2.0 this Saturday

If you're in search of some crafty goodness this weekend, Craft2.o is on again in Lower Hutt. Details are below. Judging by the sneak peaks people have posted on Flickr, the email discussions on the Craft2.0 mailing list and the conversations on Facebook, it sounds like it's going to be a cracker. I'm not doing a stall this time, but I am definitely going along for a spot of shopping and a catch-up with some bloggy people. First 100 people through the door get a free goodie bag.
P.S. I'm planning on running the handmade Christmas ornament swap again this year. Stay tuned for details of how to sign up in the next few days.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Weekend fun

We had a weekend away visiting my family for my niece's first birthday party. Much fun was had, including:

Decorating (vegan) cupcakes and an elephant birthday cake:

Watching this little cutie enjoy her birthday party:

Having some Aunty-Niece bonding time:

Friday, 9 October 2009

Peggy Squares for Samoa

I've been at a bit of a loose end recently when it comes to crafting. I'm in the middle of a large assessment round - 3 major assignments followed by 3 exams - so I don't want to start any major new projects, yet I need something to help me wind down when I've got a few precious moments of down-time. I got an email today from Knit World that suggested the perfect simple no-brainer project that also helps a worthwhile cause - peggy squares for Samoa.

Apparently Knit World are running a nationwide appeal to knit peggy squares to make blankets for those in Samoa affected by the recent Tsunami. A shipping container has been organised to go to Samoa at the end of October. Knit World are trying to get as many blankets knitted before then to go on that container.

Instructions for a 20cm x 20cm peggy square: Using Double Knit Yarn and 5.00mm needles cast on 35 stitches and knit in garter stitch for 20cm. Cast off leaving a long length of yarn to sew up. If you are knitting more than one peggy square, just knit a long strip to save on sewing up.

Peggy squares can be dropped off at any Knit World shop. If you don't live near a Knit World shop, I'm happy for you to post completed squares to me and I'll drop them off to my nearest store. Just email me to arrange.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Today I am One or, my first veganniversary

Today is world vegetarian day. It is also a year since Alex and I started our new vegan lifestyle. We had been vegetarian for 3 1/2 years at that stage, but I was still a bit daunted by the full switch to veganism. How would I bake without eggs, milk or butter? Where would our protein come from? How would I survive a life without cheese? And most importantly, could I still eat chocolate?

In the end, it has been so much easier than I expected. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made and I couldn't be happier about it. Yes, I do miss some foods, but not as much as I had expected. And the peace of mind that comes with this new lifestyle far outweighs any cravings I might have for dairy products or eggs.

This year we have discovered some wonderful new foods that we might otherwise never have tried. Quinoa, kale, buckwheat, tempeh and agave nectar are just some of our new staples, and we are continuing to discover new foods. I have learnt how to bake without eggs or dairy (including making the most delicious vegan cupcakes from this book), cook beans from scratch (much cheaper than the canned ones), make a pizza without cheese (not as weird as it sounds) and make my own soy yoghurt. And I have discovered that, yes, I CAN still have dark chocolate (Whittakers and Richfields have the best ranges for vegans).

Below are a couple of favourite easy recipes that now often feature on our weekly menu.

If any of you are considering a vegan lifestyle, or want to know what is so bad about dairy and eggs, I encourage you to check out the wonderful podcast Vegetarian Food for Thought, which played a significant role in our decision to become vegan. There are also some vegan FAQs here.

Baked Tofu
We mostly eat this in sandwiches, but you could also have it diced in a salad, in a stir-fry or even in sushi.

Shake the following together in a screw topped jar:
2 tbsp maple syrup or agave nectar (you can get agave in Wgtn at Commonsense Organics)
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp liquid smoke (see note below)

Preheat your oven to 220 degC. Slice your tofu (I use Hings brand extra firm tofu in the 250g packs - this gives about 10 slices) into slices about 5mm thick.

slicing the tofu

Spray an oven proof dish lightly with oil (make sure the dish is big enough to fit the tofu slices). Lay the tofu slices in the dish and pour over about 1/3 of the marinade. Use a pastry brush or your hands to spread the marinade around and ensure the tofu is covered on both sides. If you have time, leave the tofu to sit in the marinade for about 10 mins (optional step).

tofu with marinade - before baking

Bake for approx 20 mins, turning over the slices halfway through cooking. When cooled the tofu should should be chewy but not crispy. Great for sandwiches. The marinade makes enough for about 3 batches and keeps in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

baked tofu

**A note about liquid smoke - this gives a great smoked flavour to dishes. It is really concentrated, so you only need a very small amount. I bought mine online from Nelson Naturally.

Easy Bean Salad

easy bean salad
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together:
330g can mixed beans (or the equivalent of home-cooked beans)
1/2 small red onion, diced
3 tbsp water
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Great as a side dish for dinner, or by itself for lunch. You can also add diced capsicum or celery if you wish.