Friday, January 28, 2011

Projects of the teenage variety

Blogfriends, there's nothing like losing your camera to delay a blogpost, that's all I can say.
Well it's been a busy week at ours. My 13-year-old niece came to stay, so it's been a week of swimming in the river, going to the beach, shopping, cursing the contents of eachother's ipods, and (for me) learning 13-year-old vocabulary. I am SO with it now.
We also embarked on a project to sew something together. She chose the fabric and the pattern and I helped her out with the sewing. The thing I love about a handmade thing, this sewing project included, is that it is essentially a little glimpse into someone's mind. You see a unique part of their individuality and their creativity.
She chose this pattern, New Look 6872, made up with a cotton poplin fabric with a bright floral print. Now, she is 13 and she likes to shop, but there was a certain gleam of pride with choosing this fabric in that it was only $5 per metre, making this an $8.50 skirt. She does have that Smith thrifty-gene after all! And doesn't it look cool all made up?
She cut out most of it, sewed the side seams and the pockets, sewed the gathering lines, and applied the interfacing. Rather a good effort, don't you think? I did a few bits and bobs, but this is really her skirt. I love it.
Being the creative person that she is, she also found a great use for the offcuts. This little monster is going to go on her school bag.
And now that we've had our last trips away, and our last visitor, it really feels like the long summer holidays are on the way out. The last week will be reserved for haircuts and school wardrobe labelling and freezer filling and other such mundane activities, but oddly enough, I'm totally ready for it. Everything has its season, school holidays included.
Have a great week everyone!
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Things We Need

Who knew that New Year "goals" could be so satisfying? This year, I want to make things we need and things I enjoy making, and if there's some crossover between the two, then so much the better.
First on the list, some tog bags. For non-New Zealanders, togs are the NZ word for swimwear. I particularly like the word "togs" because it combines so neatly with the abbreviation for goggles. So, you can yell to your children "Go get your togs and gogs, we're off to the pool!".
For Harry's tog bag, some ultracute robot fabric combined with black cotton drill. The bags are lined with parka nylon, and instead of handles at the top, I put in two long channels to make them into drawstring bags. There's a wee loop at the bottom to secure the cord, so that when you pull it tight it becomes like a duffle bag.
Lets have a close up on that robot fabric. Awesome isn't it? It was a very kind gift from a friend.
For Sylvie's bag, some Japanese cotton-linen with wee bees and flowers. I was going to put a toggle on the cord...(okay, I'll pause here while we all laugh at the word "toggle". You know why.)...but the ones I saw in the fabric shop were too small for the cord, so I made a little fabric tube instead. It's several thicknesses so that it's nice and firm, and it functions in closing up the bag just fine.
Now that I think about it, this fabric was also a very kind gift from that same friend. I love these Japanese fabrics, not just the design but also the quality and the weight and the feel of the cotton-linen blend. They feel delicious.
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Okay then, goals.

In the last couple of days I've been thinking about this no-New-Year's-resolutions thing. I still don't have any as such, but as my sister suggested, I've thought of a few goals. Not that I want to call them that, though, even the word "goal" makes me feel like there is some unachievable endpoint.
I used to be right into goals. I spent a lot of time and energy and money chasing them, and then one day I realized that achieving them had given me very little satisfaction. I guess my new goal, if I have one at all, is to enjoy who I am, the people around me, and what I already have.
In terms of craft/cooking projects, this year I want to make things that we need, things I enjoy making, or things that make our family life better. I am less into making things simply because they're cute or because I want to be busy. My most recent cooking projects have been enormously satisfying on this front. I made some really delicious pasta sauce- 15 jars of it- using sauce tomatoes, onions, garlic, tomato paste, and herbs (marjoram, thyme) from our garden. To bottle this type of sauce, I use the overflow method and make sure that I have a good 2 T wine vinegar per 500 ml sauce so that it's acidic enough.
And remember those gooseberries? I made some gooseberry sauce as promised, but before I did I sorted out the wee red ones and made a gooseberry and almond cake, using the recipe here at Prosestitch (I used only 70 g ground almonds because I was too stingey to buy two packets). It was deeeeeelicous.
Well will you look at that? Now that I'm started I'm really on a roll. I'd like to read some really good books this year, do some sewing for myself, establish some new family favourite dishes for dinner, go on holiday with friends and family, and find out more about WWI so that I can understand more of what's between the lines on my other blog
There. Goals. That wasn't so bad, now was it?
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

No Year Resolutions

Ho ho! It's 2011 already! Happy New Year everyone!
Usually I start the year with some kind of flimsy commitment to drink less coffee or do more exercise, but this year I thought I'd save us all the charade and just flag New Year's Resolutions. I call it "No Year Resolutions".
We went away for New Year, off to Hanmer Springs for a few days to catch up with some of our favourite old friends. They make me giggle like a silly schoolgirl and I love it. *Sigh*. One of our highlights; visiting Molesworth Station. It's such a beautiful part of New Zealand, so remote, and so...New Zealandy. We stopped in at the Acheron Accommodation House, an old cobb house built in 1862. Here is what it looked like when people lived in it.
And here is what it looks like today. Lonely but still loved. 
Cobb houses, these really old ones built from mud and tussock and so on, they just amaze me. They were built out of what was there, when most people would consider that there was nothing to build a house out of. I love how resourceful people were back then.
Another relic of the days when people lived there was the gooseberry and redcurrant bushes surrounding the house. The gooseberries were small, furry, sour, and fantastic cooked up and served with cream and custard. I picked a big bag full to bring home and make gooseberry sauce.
This rather unlikely sauce is the taste of my childhood. We ate it every morning on fried potato cakes. This recipe makes a big batch- I will halve it when I make it up.
Gooseberry Sauce
3 kg gooseberries
2.5 kg brown sugar
1 kg onions
50 g salt
50 g whole cloves
1.9 L malt vinegar
Top and tail the gooseberries, then boil with the other ingredients for 2 h. Strain through a coarse sieve or colander, and bottle while hot. Keep a while to let the flavours mellow before using it. Keeps for years.
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