Monday, 30 April 2012

Textured Scarf

I finished Martin's scarf a while back but I thought that I would share some photos and the pattern with you.  It was a quick and easy knit.  I love the texture of the finished product.  It's starting to get cold down here in Melbourne and it won't be long before we're all grabbing our scarf and coat before heading out the door.

The Pattern
Yarn - 3 balls of Filatura di Casa 
Needles - 4mm and 5 mm

  • Using the 4mm needles cast on 41 stitches
  • Knit 4 rows
  • Change to 5mm needles
  • Row 1 - K2 *P1,K1 (through back loop), repeat from * to last 3 stitches, P1, K2
  • Row 2 - Knit
  • Repeat these two rows until the scarf measures approx. 165cm (ensure you still have enough yarn for remaining 4 rows and to cast off)
  • Change to 4mm needles
  • Knit 4 rows
  • Cast off

With the weather being cold and a few months of fireside time ahead of me, I can see a whole lot of knitting and crocheting being done.  At the moment I am working on a crocheted pram blanket for a friend who had a baby girl.  The baby is now a few weeks old so I have to get cracking on it.  With all  of all the winter woolies that I have planned, I am think it might just be a wonderfully warm Melbourne winter, after all.  Well in my house anyway!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Instafriday


Yes, it's Friday again!  I'm linking up with Jeanett.
life rearranged
We are certainly back into the swing of things since our holiday. 
First fire of the season.  
It's been cold here in Melbourne.  
Winter is not my best friend...brrr!
Homework!  
This boy of mine gets a lot but he never complains.  
God love him!
My crafty girl!
Grace spends so much time either writing stories or drawing up something.
This is her girl with outfits she can change into.
I love watching her draw and create things. 
Yum!
Hot chocolate to warm my babies.

 We had to draw our favourite Disney character.
Do you like my Mickey Mouse?

Gracie is so in love with her doll, McKenna.  
She snapped this self portrait during the week. 
I love it when you scroll through photos on the phone and find something that the kids have snapped.

Wishing you a happy and not too cold weekend.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Mother's Day

Did you realise that Mother's Day is approaching fast?  May 13 to be exact (also my little sister's birthday and the day after Martin's 40th).  Anyway, when I was teaching, it was about this time that I would scour through craft magazines, teaching resources and rack my brain to come up with thoughtful but useful gifts for my student's to make for their mother's/carers.


I am not teaching this year so I can relax a bit but I thought that I'd compile a few ideas of things that you can make for your own mum, or if you're a teacher, for your student's mother's/carers or even for a special grandmother or a neighbour.  As you know, I am all about things homemade.



I love these cute spa slippers from Flamingo Toes.  Easy to make and they'd go perfectly with the scrub that Grace and I made earlier this year.  Just what a Mummy needs!



Flickr Photo by Samantha (This Home Sweet Home)
Scrabble is a favourite game at our house and I love Scrabble crafts.  I also adore these Scrabble pendants .  The pendants are easy to make and I know a lot of mother's and grandmother's who would adore wearing them.  Scrabble tiles can be purchased in many places but I have bought some from Beads Online before.  They were good quality and arrived in the post 2 days after I submitted my order.

Flower Paper Canvas

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These flowers are super easy for a child to make but I think they look so effective.  
My kids always make cards for special occasions and Mother's Day is a must for this in our house.  


Source: blog.craftzine.com via Jane on Pinterest
























I have made these a few times with classes that I have taught.  The kids love to decorate the tin, plant the seeds and watch them grow. The mother's/grandmother's/carers love receiving them.   








The kids and I will be making these on the weekend.
We intend to make them into bookmarks for my Mum and my Mother-In-Law.

Mason Jar Vase

Source: georgiapellegrini.com via Jane on Pinterest


If only we had family close by because I would love to take some beautiful flowers to my Mum and Martin's Mum for a table centre and enjoy a lunch together...if only! 
(FYI- Both Martin and my family live in Sydney - 880km's/550miles  away)

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Granny Squares (Part Two)

I hope that you've all had lots of happy hooking after my post on Granny Squares.  
Now, as promised some inspiration as to what you can make with your lovelies.

Source: bit.ly via Krystyna on Pinterest

Pinterest is full of ideas, but I have put together a few of my favourite little projects and ones that I hope to make in the coming weeks/months:
  • Dottie Angel is a great Australian blog and I love her pillow.  It only requires a few granny circle squares and I love the garland that she created in this post, too.  Adorable.
  • I LOVE this bag on Craftster.  How cute would that be when you hit the shop, or the park, or anywhere, really?
  • Of course there is the Flowers in the Snow blanket that I made,  I do love it a lot and so do the kids.
  • This purse on A Handmade Year is so cute.  I need one and am going to make one.
  • I think Grace needs this poncho from Prudent Baby.  I know that she is seven but I think she can get away with it. 
  • Granny Square Love has tonnes of ideas but I have my eye on the tablecloth
  • Some bunting bliss.  How gorgeous would that be strung between trees at a special celebration?
If you are unsure how to seam your squares, the Lion Brand Blog has two great tutorial here and here.

I have to say, for those who feel stressed and need to unwind at the moment, you need to embrace the meditative qualities of granny squares. The joyous feeling of using up scraps of wool and creating something is soothing, rhythmic and relaxing.  You will feel better for it, I promise.  Well I always do so I hope you do, too. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Granny Squares

I had a reader email me and ask how to make a granny square.  I was going to put together a tutorial when I thought there are so, so many ways to make them and also so, so many tutorials already out there.  Saying that, I thought I'd list a few of my favourite granny square links.

My crochet experience started with miles and miles of chain stitch ropes and being taught the basic stitches - single crochet, double crochet and treble (triple) stitch.  My first true sense of achievement was when I created my first granny square.  I think I was about12 years of age and I remember being addicted.  I couldn't put that hook and wool down.  I've made numerous squares in a variety of ways since then.  Not only are they pretty but the colour combinations, sizes and shapes are endless.  So many possibilities  = FUN!

Source: flickr.com via Sara on Pinterest


My favourite tutorials:
  • Purl Bee - great step by step pictures and descriptions.  (You all know how much I love Purl Bee)
  • Handmadeology has a terrific list of granny square tutorials
  • I REALLY like the square in this tutorial by Linda Permann.  The 'plus' sign in the middle makes for a cute granny square.
  • This pattern from Yarning is simple and pretty but ever so slightly different than the others 
  • If you are feeling ambitious, there is Craftyminx's A Granny A Day 
  • Carina's Craft Blog has a nice tutorial as well
  • If you are comfortable with the basic crochet stitches this tutorial on Wisecraft is a simple granny square that starts with a circle centre
If you have any questions or queries, please don't hesitate to email me or to leave a comment.

Once you have mastered the square, the question is - what to do with all the squares?

I'll be back with that post tomorrow.

Monday, 23 April 2012

ANZAC Biscuits

With ANZAC day approaching on Wednesday, two things come to mind; celebrating our heroes and Anzac biscuits.  For the readers who are not in our hemisphere, the acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Core.  The history dates back to WWI when the wives, mothers and girlfriends of the Australian soldiers who were concerned for the health and nutrition of their men wanted to send food that would ensure they were getting good nutritious, homemade foods.  The problem, though, was that any food the women intended to send could take up to two months to get to them without any refrigeration.  The solution was ANZAC biscuits.  A combination of rolled oats, sugar, butter, coconut, flour and golden syrup.  All these items did not spoil readily and were staples in many households.

There are two teams when it comes to these biscuits - crunchy vs chewy!  In our house it's a unanimous decision - crunchy is the winner.  To make them the perfect crunch, I bake them for an extra 5-10 minutes and add a little extra golden syrup (1 tablespoon) than the recipe asks for.  So, if you like them chewy follow the recipe as listed below.
ANZAC Biscuits

Ingredients
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup dessicated coconut
  • 125g butter
  • 2 Tablespoons golden syrup 
  • 1/2 teaspoon bi-carbonate soda
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees celcuis.
  2. Combine the oats, sifted flour, sugar and coconut in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the butter and golden syrup. 
  4. Stir gentle over a low heat until melted.
  5. Mix the bi-carb soda with the boiling water.
  6. Add the bi-carb soda mix to the melted butter mixture.
  7. Stir the butter mixture into the dry ingredients.
  8. Place teaspoonfuls of mixture on lightly greased oven trays
  9. Cook in oven for 20 mins
  10. Cool on a wire rack.
Notes
Add an extra tablespoon of golden syrup for a crunchier texture
Cook for 5 – 10 mins longer for crispy crunchy Anzacs.

The kids LOVE these in their school lunch box and Martin and I devour them with a cup of tea.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Community Spirit

This weekend was full of wonderful community activities.  The first activity involved the amazing blogging community.  The kids and I were lucky enough to attend the Yoplait Day Out in Windsor.  It was lovely to meet such friendly Melbourne bloggers.  I am always amazed at the incredible blogging community.  I am only newish to the whole blogging phenomenon.  Although I have read blogs for years, my personal blog is relatively new compared to the wonderful people I met on Saturday.

The kids enjoying the day...
Paddy enjoying the sweet little bunnies in the petting farm.
Jumping castle fun

 My blue panda bear.
We all enjoyed delicious Yoplait yogurt.  
Vanilla bean was our favourite...yum!
We also LOVEd the crepes and yogurt.

While we were in the community spirit we spent Sunday afternoon at The Glenferrie Road Festival
Clydesdales

My scaredy cat, Grace!  
I think the size of the horses intimidated her.  
She is so timid.


The day ended perfectly with a milkshake and a chat in a local cafe.

As much as I dearly miss our beautiful community in Sydney, I feel lucky to be part of such a vibrant community here in Melbourne, both in my neighbourhood and with fellow bloggers alike.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Bread Making

I am definitely not a believer of a no carb diet.  I love bread!  I actually enjoy making it just as much as I enjoy eating it.  A slice of toast with jam is the perfect way to start the day, in my opinion.  The bread recipes I use change with the seasons but the one that I always come back to is WHO Bread.  I make it in the bread machine, set the timer overnight and we wake up to the smell of delicious homemade bread.

WHO Bread
1 1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter
1 tsp salt
3 cups of flour (select your own flour, I use wholemeal but rye is delicious, too)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

It is such a wonderful way to start the day and it only takes a few minutes out of the night time routine.  In fact, it is part of the routine.  Occasionally, I will knead the bread by hand and that takes a minute or two spread out over a few hours but this recipe is perfect for the machine.  I guess that is the beauty of having a bread machine.  When I don't have the energy or the time, I have the choice to simply pop the ingredients into the machine.

Whenever I make bread I think of my grandmothers and those who came before me.  I have many of my grandmothers recipes in a special folder and I think of them cooking and kneading and making bread for my parents and for me as a child and then I bring myself to the present and realise that I am doing the same for my family.  Crazy as it sounds, I get a lot of satisfaction from that.  It stretches from my past but it makes me fully aware of the present at the same time.  It is comforting, rhythmic and focused.  

Thursday, 19 April 2012

On The Line


There are a few things you need to know about me:
1.  I like to make things from scratch - food, occasionally clothes, furniture (if/when possible) and home cleaning products
2.  I love a clean, ordered house and I love clean clothes and linen - especially clean bed sheets.
Anyway, I am not a big spender.  If you ask Martin, he might say the opposite, but generally I watch where our money is going so we can spend it on fun things - like our recent holiday.  Now, laundry powder is one thing that does not fall into the category of 'fun' but it is an essential nonetheless.
I have made my own powder for years.  I know that a lot of people make their own but I like the recipe I use and it leaves the clothes clean and with a subtle peppermint scent that doesn't over power everything.  I have never done the maths to figure out how much money I save by making our own but I have no doubt that this is more economical than commercial powders.  It couldn't be easier to make and it looks so pretty sitting on the laundry counter in a glass jar. 
Jane's Homemade Laundry Powder
(Makes approximately 5 cups)
  • 2 tabs of peppermint oil
  • 2 cups (finely) grated Sunlight Soap
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup bi-carb (baking) soda
  • 1 cup washing soda

Mix everything together, and store in an airtight jar. 
I use about 1 tablespoon per average load 
(BTW...I have a front loading machine)
Use 2 tablespoons if the washing is extra dirty.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A Question of Money

Last night, the issue of pocket money was raised at our house.  It's a dilemma?  Do we start or don't we?  Martin and I never had pocket money growing up.  When I was young, my family had no formal weekly/monthly money hand outs. Yes, we had chores and we had to work as a team but we weren't given money for completing them, we just had to do it.  Occasionally if we did something extraordinary we got a few $ but nothing huge. 



Patrick and Grace have chore charts that must be completed daily.  They are not huge tasks.  They're simple things like set the table, make beds, unpack the dishwasher and clean their room.  I don't believe in giving them a reward for doing what they're suppose to do.  They should do it because it needs to be done and it's their responsibility.   It's part of being in a family.  I also do not want them to expect rewards for everyday living.  Am I being harsh?


Now, saying that I also want them to learn to save, give, spend and appreciate the value of money.  I think that it might be time for some monetary basics.


Back track to last night...


~Grace has been looking through the American Girl  site over and over again.  She is desperate to buy new clothes for her doll.  She keeps asking me how she can go about getting some things from the site.  Of course, I suggest sewing some but she won't have it.  She WANTS a carry bag and some fancy outfit and these things add up.  Money she doesn't have.  Money that I won't give her just 'because'.  She even went to her wallet and counted out the few $$ she had.  I tell you, this money was burning a hole in her pocket.


This is new territory for me, for us.


So here is my question, how do you handle the topic of pocket money?  Yay or nay?


I am starting to feel like it's time to give them the opportunity to learn about money, but I don't want that to impose on the chores that they should be doing and I do not want them to expect a reward for them.


Oh, the dilemma!


What should we do?

The Simple Things



I saw this quote on Pinterest yesterday and at first I loved it and then I thought...I don't do this. I listen more with my head than my heart.  Sad but a reality.  I wish I was more of a dreamer and a romantic but my head wins out most of the time

Is this you, too?

At the moment I'm doing my best to live simply, to think freely, enjoy my life to the full and thrive in the moment.  If my head tells me to do that, I will, but I need to do this with my heart guiding me.  Right?

This morning I noticed and appreciated the simple sights and sounds of our home - Paddy drawing and Grace playing with her doll and I felt an incredible sense of gratitude for family life.
It's the slow, simple and very ordinary moments that make my days, my life fulfilled.

Have a happy Wednesday, friends.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Sugar and Spice

I love to have a sweet smelling home.  You see, my mum was/is an aromatherapist and when I was young and still living at home, she always had some scent on the go.  Her favourite (and one of mine) is lavender and occasionally there would be scents of cinnamon or patchouli.  Now a day doesn't go by without me lighting a scented candle or adding a special oil to my burner.  The kids even ask for me to light a candle for them to read by.  The only downside is that the candles and the oils that I love are expensive, really expensive...sigh!  As much as I would love to burn them all day, every day, I can't do it without leaving a big dent in our budget.

However, just the other day I was on Pinterest and I discovered recipes for simmering spices.  Some required many ingredients, most of which I didn't have on hand so I decided to experiment with what I had and this is what I came up with and if I don't say so myself, they are not bad at all.

~Lemon Verbena~
In a small pot combine a bunch of fresh lemon verbena (you could use mint instead of the lemon verbena) leaves with about 2 cups of water.  Simmer on a low heat.  If needed, add more water.
This is a subtle scent but it lasts all day and freshens the whole house.



~Vanilla~
I added two vanilla beans to 2 cups of simmering water.  At first the scent was subtle and sweet but by the end of the day I found it overpowering and sickly sweet.  If I was to do this again I would use one vanilla bean instead of two.

~Cinnamon and Orange~
In a small pot combine 4 cinnamon sticks and the peel of one orange.  Add 2 cups of water and simmer on a low heat.
I think this would be perfect at Christmas time but we enjoyed it in April too.


~Orange, Lemon and Cinnamon~
In a small pot combine the peel of one orange, one lemon and 2 cinnamon sticks.  Add two cups of water and simmer on a low heat.
This has a fresh, clean scent.

~Lavender~
Lavender always has a special place in our family so I decided to have a go at simmering some lavender.  I went to my garden and cut off about 20 lavender blooms.  I threw the heads into 2 cups of simmering water and the result...a relaxed family and a better nights sleep.



I know that not everyone has fresh herbs and spices on hand but they are easy to find.  You can purchase them at your local grocery store or health food provider.  The combinations that you create are endless.  Experiment and have fun!  If you discover a perfect combination please let me know so that I can try it out, too. 

Monday, 16 April 2012

Store Crush ~ The Purl Bee


For many years, The Purl Bee has been one of my favourite blogs to visit.  The site shares loads of project ideas using fabrics, yarn and more and they also have a store - Purl Soho in NYC.  This was a "must-do" on our recent trip and I was so lucky to spend an hour or two oohing and ahhing over everything in the store.

I also managed to snap some photos to share with you.
The shop has an amazing array of quilting fabrics from designers like 
Denyse Schmidt, Kokka, Moda, and the like.  

Oh, and they had Liberty prints too. I just drooled over the selection. Liberty cottons are not cheap, though- something like $37/yard. But at least they are 54" wide, not 44" like most.

Note that this store is not for bargain hunters.  
It is for people who want to work with the highest quality and best products available.


I was tempted to buy this adorable cross stitch iPhone case. 
 I have regretted not getting it since we left the store so I might just have to purchase it on-line.  
The pattern is here.

(Sorry for the blurry photo but the case was inside a glass dome)

The wall of wool was AMAZING.  
They had numerous projects on display and a huge variety of wools and colours available.
With winter just around the corner I ended up buying a few skeins of the Brooklyn tweed.  I'm not sure what I'll knit or crochet with it but I couldn't resist not buying it.

Isn't it an inviting store?  
So much sewing, knitting and crafting inspiration in one little store.
I felt like I was in heaven.

It was definitely worth visiting and  I am glad that I made the effort to get there.  I just wish there was a store like this in Melbourne or even Australia, but alas, there is not (well not that I know of).  
Maybe I'll just need to get back to NYC to re-visit this wonderful store.
I'm tempted!!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Coming Home

*Laundry - last night I dreamt about beautiful towers of folded laundry.  I also dreamt I was running through the clouds.  Surely these are signs that I need to get the laundry done and get back into my running routine.


*Read - The Marriage Plot  If you haven't read it, do.  It's a great book that has interesting characters and reads in an unhurried pace.  Perfect for holiday reading.


*Clothes - I only bought a few things while we were away.  Our trip was so busy that there was not a lot of time for shopping.  I must say, though, Anthropologie was my all time favourite store to visit.  The clothes remind me of France and I love walking through the store - so much to look at and fall in love with.  One good thing about getting home is unpacking a few new items for the wardrobe...hooray!


*Foxtel - so good to get home and catch up on my favourite shows.  Okay, confession, I am mostly catching up on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (shh!).  


*Celebrating - While I was away I won two prizes.  Exciting!  My first one was some Dove Nourishing Hair Oil from Violet Le Beaux.  I also won two gorgeous prints from Spit and Giggle byDesign .  Lucky me!


*Inspiration - one of the highlights was watching the skillful women at our hotel in Orlando put together Easter floral arrangements.  Grace and I loved watching (and smelling) the fresh flowers being intertwined to make incredible displays.  The women took so much pride in their work and had obvious enjoyment as they created pieces of beauty.  I need to spend some time with my mum who makes beautiful floral arrangements and learn some tricks.  


  
*Groceries - we have just re-stocked the cupboards with some greatly missed Aussie foods - namely Vegemite, or "Aussie Gold" as the gentleman at the Qantas lounge in Honolulu called it.  When the kids spotted some at  the buffet, they both had such big smiles on their faces and insisted we cook some toast ASAP.  Simple things please!  While we were away their staple breakfast was a bagel with cream cheese.
*Bubble Bath - the loveliest thing about coming home is having time for a bubble bath.  Such a lovely treat.  I NEVER have a bath in hotels...gross!


*Sleep - not being able to sleep on the long flight home and the inflight entertainment being broken meant that I could spend time chatting and playing with the kids.  We made lots of find-a-words, crosswords, imagined objects in the clouds and read stories.  Ten - thirteen hours of uninterrupted  time with the kids is a real treat and I think they enjoyed it as much as we did.   Thankfully they went straight to sleep when we arrived home.  EXHAUSTED!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Thud

We're home!

We had such a great trip but we're all very tired and need a few days to take life slow.
It is going to take a while to get through the loads and loads of washing!
Thank goodness the sun is shining today.


Source: weheartit.com via Jane on Pinterest

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

~Right Now~

Right now, I am...
~waiting for the rain to stop so we can get down to the pool area for our final swim in Hawaii.  This is the only day that it has rained the entire time we've been away.
~thinking how lucky we are that the weather has been so perfect.
~wondering how the kids will cope with the routine back home and returning to school next week.  We've had so much go on our travels that I think they'll be going back to school with many stories to share with their teachers and friends.
~grateful for the family time that we have had together.  Family time is priceless - not just with our little family of four but with my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. 
~reeling from all the good food, sites and times we've experienced during our travels. 
~listening to birds chirp outside my window.   
~counting the number of books I got to read while we traveled - 3! 
~confirming that walking is good for the soul and for having good conversation with the kids.  It's amazing what they talk about as you stroll along. 
~making plans to continue our family walks when we return home
~thinking we're incredibly lucky to have had such a seamless trip.  Nothing (bar one flight which was rectified quickly) went wrong.
~deciding on our next family trip.  We've all caught the travel bug.
~getting excited about returning home and catching up with friends.
~wanting to do some knitting on the plane.  I've missed my sewing and knitting a lot and can't wait to get back into the routine of it.
~hearing what I have to sew for Gracie's new doll, McKenna.  She has big plans for matching outfits for the two of them.
~leaving our room to go for a swim...hooray!  The rain has eased.

:: wishing you all a lovely day.

Easter Traditions

I love having traditions to mark each holiday and I know that the kids do, too.  Our Easter traditions are quite simple but traditions nonetheless.  On Easter Saturday we usually go for a drive to the country or rural town not too far from home and have a family lunch at a quaint country cafe/restaurant or pub.  On Easter Sunday the day starts with a visit from the Easter Bunny and then we go to Easter Mass and if we're in Sydney we have lunch with my family and afternoon tea or an early dinner with Martin's. 

Well this year we had none of that and I can't tell you how many times the kids said - it didn't feel like Easter.  I had to agree with them.  Easter Saturday was spent flying from Oralndo to Hawaii and Easter Sunday morning was at the beach and then lunch by the hotel pool and the afternoon in our hotel room taking it slow.  Our only 'real' Easter celebration of the day was for dinner.  We went to a restaurant and talked about how different our Easter was.  Now I’m not saying it was bad, in a lot of ways it was perfect, it was just different. 



Tomorrow we fly home!  We're all going home with happy memories from our holiday but I am now looking forward to my own bed and some home cooked meals and catching up with family and friends.  I need to sit with my friends have a coffee and get back into the groove of our life in Melbourne. 

After the numerous flights we’ve had on this journey, the 10 hours to Sydney and 1 ½ hours to Melbourne will be a breeze (excuse the pun - I couldn't help myself).