March 26, 2013

Paper, pencil, ink and fabric...

Finally, a bit of creative action around here! I'm sooo glad I signed up for the handprinted fabric swap over at Maze and Vale or I might still be just gazing at my unused screen and fabric inks purchased over 2 years ago.

I did a weekend screenprinting workshop back in the summer of 2011 with the lovely ladies from Harvest Textiles in Melbourne. I LOVED it! (I highly recommend enrolling in one of their workshops if you can.) Full of inspiration, I rushed out and bought all the bits and bobs I'd need to do my own printing at home.

But back at home it all felt a bit daunting. The whole process has quite a lot of steps... I got bogged down trying to come up with the perfect design, then there's the process of creating a repeat pattern, cutting out stencils from the yupo paper, setting up a suitable printing area on the kitchen bench, mixing inks, remembering how to set up to print a repeat design on fabric meterage and of course the actual printing.

Let's face it. I'm a procrastinator. I put a LOT of thought into things but often find it hard to just get stuck into it. I seem to work best when there's a deadline looming. So committing to a fabric swap that involved a deadline and 4 people expecting a package in the mail from me, seemed like a rather good idea.

As usual, I thought about my design for weeks and did lots of browsing on Pinterest for inspiration. I came up with an idea for a simple design that wouldn't be too tricky to print.

Then with two days to go it was time for action! Little miss four and a half helped with the cutting (to create the repeat design) and colouring. Stencils were cut for each of the 3 colours and I mixed my inks.

My friend Cate came to give me hand with the printing... and the magic began!
Screenprinting is wonderful in the way that a scrappy, smudged drawing transfers to perfect little crisp (well not always) patches of colour on the fabric. So thrilling! (Yes, seriously!)

I'm so happy with how my print turned out. It's called 'Rain'. No it isn't perfect but overall I love it. I do hope my swap partners will too!

PS. I've already received 3 exciting packages in the mail from my swap partners. I'll share them as soon as the last one arrives. I love swaps - so much fun!

Hope you're up to something crafty too!

March 23, 2013

Toasted muesli :: a recipe

My family seems to have a genetic trait for loving breakfast cereal. It's great at anytime of the day as far as we're concerned! The kids often request cereal as afternoon snack (and I'm happy to join them!) and my Dad was always known to have a bowl before bed.

However, I've been re-assessing some of our food choices lately and I was slightly horrified when I realised that even the reasonably 'healthy' commercial breakfast cereal options have around 2 teaspoons of sugar in a standard serve. Eeep!

So I've had a bit of a crackdown on breakfast options. The choices in our household are now homemade toasted muesli (none of us have ever been especially keen on natural muesli), porridge sweetened with some mashed banana or grated apple & cinnamon, VitaBrits or toasted homemade bread with peanut butter or vegemite. (Other more decadent options such as pancakes or eggs & bacon may still occasionally happen on weekends but weekdays require something quick!)

I only made toasted muesli for the first time last year - for some reason I thought it would be tricky but it's actually super easy... and super yummy! I've experimented with a few different recipes and settled on a combination of ingredients that I really like and that is also low in sugar, which I now make once a week.

 Low-sugar Toasted Muesli

Mix together in a large bowl:
4 cups of organic rolled outs
1 heaped cup of seeds & chopped nuts (I generally use sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, ground flax seeds and almonds)
1/2 cup of any mix of wholemeal flour, oat bran, wheat germ or quinoa flakes
1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon

Then gently combine and warm until runny:
1/4 cup of oil (I use coconut oil or a mild-flavoured olive oil)
1/4 cup of brown rice syrup (rice syrup doesn't contain fructose - however you can substitute honey if you prefer your muesli sweeter)
2 teaspoons of honey

Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients and combine well.
Spread over a baking tray and bake in a slow oven (135C) for 40 minutes until lightly golden, turning it over every 10 minutes.

When cool stir through:
1/2 cup of shredded coconut
2/3 cup dried fruit (eg. sultanas, currants, figs, dates, cranberries, apricots)


March 19, 2013

Retro revamp

My family has had this brown bookshelf ever since I can remember. Ain't it stylish? Be sure to admire that lovely woodgrain effect created with the paintbrush... hmm...

Time for a lick of paint to freshen it up... oh yes!

I'm so happy with the result! (The colour is not quite accurate in the photos - it's more of a mint green, not as blue as shown here.) A great new storage solution for our office.

March 17, 2013

Weekend in Melbourne

I've enjoyed a wonderful weekend in Melbourne with my gorgeous friend Nicole - something we must do more often!

We dropped into Offshoot, a fab pop-up shop in Northcote, where we met local designer Deb of Dear Someone clothing. Her locally-made clothing, along with that of Sherrin of Starashan (who I met at their regular store & workspace, Olive Grove Studios) and Trish & Jo of label Troika, is just my style... simple comfortable designs, original screenprinted fabrics, interesting applique or panel details and beautifully made. I purchased a slouch tee and corduroy skirt with vintage fabric applique. Don't you think it makes something much more special when you have met the person who created it or know a little of the story behind it?

We also visited the Skirt & Shirts Markets at Abbortsford Convent, where we were each purchased a beautiful handmade poncho by Tanja Kozub. The last poncho I owned was crocheted by my Mum when I was about six!

Of course there was also the obligatory coffee sipping and tasty treats. Luckily Nicole knows all the best spots around Melbourne, such as L'atellier de Monsuier Truffe - a bustling cafe hidden behind an unmarked red door in East Brunswick.

It's a rather cool warehouse-style space where not only can you eat yummy food (we had the smoked chicken and fig salad and the smoked trout quinoa salad) but they also manufacture their own chocolate in the glass-screened workshop area that's full of large and intriguing machines. Apparently the hot chocolate, of which there are several varieties, is divine... but that is something I will need to try out next time!

March 14, 2013

From garden to kitchen

:: Little Miss digging for potatoes in her preferred gardening attire
:: Collecting the daily autumn bounty from the garden
:: Another batch of passata in progress (this time from our home-grown tomatoes)
:: Yummy potato pancakes for lunch - recipe from here 

What's happening in your garden and kitchen?

March 7, 2013

Mid-week mini break

In celebration of our wedding anniversary, we enjoyed a wonderful one night escape in the nearby town of Bright. Our first ever kid-free overnight trip! 

If you're ever in this part of north east Victoria, I can highly recommend The Odd Frog self-contained cabins - funky architecture, comfy bed and private bush setting with wonderful views over the town and mountains - as well as the retro-style Coral Lee cafe - friendly service, yummy homestyle food and original vintage tableware. 

A very relaxing time had by all!

March 6, 2013

Autumn stash

 I love getting parcels of woolly goodness in the mail! My stash for this year...

1. Rowan Colourscape Chunky in 433 Frosty (100% lambswool)
- for an Easy Mobios Cowl
2. Berroco Ultra Alpaca in 6206 Light Grey (50% alpaca, 50% wool)
- for a Fluted Cowl
 3. Berroco Ultra Alpaca in 6287 Denim Mix (50% alpaca, 50% wool)
- for an Eyelet Yoke Sweater
4. Twilleys of Stamford Freedom Spirit Chunky in 807 Fire (100% wool)
- for a Raspberry Layers cardigan

Plus I have the Rowan Cashsoft Aran (57% merino, 33% microfiber, 10% cashmere) that I unravelled the other day - there's only enough for something short-sleeved so perhaps a Shalom Cardigan or a short-sleeved version of the Golden Wheat Cardigan.

Now which project to start on first?

March 4, 2013

Jam season

We're right in the midst of jam and jelly making season around here. Summer berries, apricots and plums have already made their way into jars and all the autumn harvest is still to come.

One of the things I love about country living is that I have supplies of fruits such quinces, cumquats, medlars and rosehips (mostly from friends & neighbours) that make wonderful jams and jellies... yet when is the last time you walked into your local supermaket and were able to buy these? I'm guessing never! What would winter be without a bit of quince jelly on toast?

For some great advice about all the ins and outs of jam making - pectin, setting point, sterilising jars, etc - pop over to this Q&A post over on cityhippyfarmgirl's blog.

March 2, 2013

Slow Living :: February

My monthly update of the little ways that I am living more slowly, simply and sustainably.
More links to Slow Living updates over at Slow Living Essentials.


{nourish} Eating loads of fresh veggies from the garden. Also stealing just a little bit of honeycomb from the lids of our beehives - mmm! I'm also making a weekly batch of toasted muesli as I've realised how much sugar is in a serve of even the healthier breakfast cereal options from the supermarket (at least 2 teaspoons generally) - not how I want my kids starting the day! 

{prepare} My tomatoes are finally ripening - there's couple of kilo's that have been accumulating on the kitchen bench over the past week so it might be time to make some tomato sauce tomorrow.

{reduce} Snapping up some op shop bargains here and there...

{green} The hot weather this summer has been causing me to develop a bit of heat rash on my neck. After trying a few different commercial products, I've discovered that plain old coconut oil is wonderful for soothing the itchiness.

{grow} In the garden we're harvesting sweetcorn, tomatoes, cucumbers (what to do with them all?), rocket, spinach, basil, kale, zucchini's and nicola potatoes. I've also planted some more brassicas plus some spring onions and leeks - and this time I've netted that section of the garden to keep the pesky satin bowerbirds from scratching them up! I also need to get some carrot seeds sown asap!

{create} A couple of sewing projects have been started (more on these soon) and lots of browsing Ravelry for knitting inspiration. Sadly, I also unravelled the garter cardigan that I started last winter, as I realised halfway through that I didn't have enough yarn. I have a new project planned for this lovely cashmerino yarn though.

{discover} A GREAT discovery this month, which has significantly improved my life! A friend referred my to the website Simpleology after I was telling her about an interesting book I'd started reading, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity by David Allen. The gist of the book is how important it is to have a system for writing down everything that is swimming around in your head, not just appointments and deadlines but every little thing you need or want to get done (eg. turn the compost, finish sewing skirt), in order to be able to feel calm and relaxed (not something I'm very good at!). After using the Simpeology site (which is free) for a couple of weeks I really feel like it's making a difference to how I feel - I can actually relax more knowing that everything is listed somewhere and I don't have to worry about remembering anything. And each morning I can simply review which tasks I want to get done that day... it all feels rather strangely efficient!

{enhance} Still working on compiling information for the North East Local Produce Guide.

{enjoy} We went to see Cirque du Soliel this month - absolutely amazing! I've been also enjoying doing a bit of sewing and ordering some lovely yarns for the knitting projects I have planned. I also did my first fun run last weekend - 5km in just under half an hour - I'm quite proud of myself!

{breathe} Reading, gardening, going to the gym. Do need to make more effort to get to bed earlier though...
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