Thursday, December 31, 2009


I'm back from vacation and have been catching up with blog reading and am still trying to unpack, getting the house looking spiffy and getting over my jet lag.

The vacation was awesome, I had a fabulous time with my family, although travelling with the little boys was a slight nightmare. Note: I have an insane inability to sleep on airplanes, so pretty much 48 hours without sleep there and then back again.

I will post pics of the trip very soon and will update my acquisitions, I picked up fabric from my old stash in SA and raided some of my mom's. My mom brought me a bounty of beautiful Ghanian fabrics, which would be ideal for summer dresses and skirts. I also have two new dresses from hubbie and some jewellery gifts & purchases to share. I also got an awesome Indonesian cookbook from my parents, so I should cook from that pretty soon.

I will need to do a weight reduction, yes I indulged a touch too much back home, but I had to take advantage of some of my South African favourites. I usually try to follow a low GI type diet, but I have diet plans that I follow strictly when I need to lose some pounds.

Not forgetting, SWAP 2010...I bought some beautiful shell buttons and an embroidered panel to satisfy the rules of the contest. I brought back some red silk and linen, as well as some black and purple cotton knits. I also have a remnant of a fabric which I believe my mom said was used by my gran for a dress. I will post pics of these too. I've had the black/grey/white graphic floral laid out since before I left and was finding that matching the design was trickier than I thought it would be. But I will continue as soon as my house and I are back to normal. I look forward to 3months of intense sewing and knitting.

Another piece of good news is that I officially become a Canadian citizen in two weeks....very exciting.

So I hope you all have or had fun New Years celebrations and wish you a prosperous year ahead.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

On Vacation!!

Just a quick post to let you all know that I'm off to South Africa for 3 weeks. I last saw my family 18 months ago, so am thrilled to be seeing them again. I haven't been back to South Africa since December 2006.

My parents have just moved to a new town so it'll be exciting to explore the new area. They are in Betty's Bay which is about an hour away from Cape Town. The entire Western Cape area is beautiful and we'll be surrounded by mountains on one side, the Atlantic on the other and we'll also be close to the wine producing area. It is a little late in the season, but we might be lucky enough to spot some whales from shore.

I'll pop in occasionally and might upload some photos while there.

I hope you all have a joyeous festive season and are surrounded by love and good old holiday spirit.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

November Acquisitions

My local Fabricland (a Canadian chain) closed it's doors on November 29th. They had a closing sale that started at the beginning of the month. Each week the prices dropped and the stock disappeared. In the final days all patterns (including Vogue) were $1 each and all fabric was under $5. All other items were at least 75 % off reg. price.

My biggest purchase was a Singer dressform which I bought in the last week for $100 (down from $400). It isn't the best available, but at that price, I am very happy. I'd previously made a duct tape double, but it was always falling over and it finally came apart in our move. It is now a sad mess of duct tape and batting in the back of a closet. I also bought a tailor's ham, which has become very useful.

I didn't buy much fabric, as the store tends to stock varying degrees of polyester and very little else. I am also running out of storage space and know I'll be bringing back some fabric from my South African trip.

I bought a cotton pique graphic floral which I'm using for a SWAP dress, as well as silk charmeuse in black, purple and grey. I also picked up a seersucker in a red/brown plaid with silver thread.

I went a little overboard with patterns, but at that price, why not. Towards the end of the sale the patterns were in displays where you lined up to pay so it was easy to rummage and add more while you waited. Usually the wait to pay was 10 minutes or more, since there were so many customers.





Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kids sweaters by Gill (my mom)

I've mentioned before that my mom is a great knitter. She has knitted up a storm since we last saw her and she has a bunch of sweaters for the boys when we visit later this month. I've fished out photos of the sweaters she's previously made and have photos of the new ones too. I think they're adorable. Thanks mom, you're a great grandma. My boys are very lucky.

She made this cute elephant sweater for James, my eldest, when he was a wee little baby. It has a matching hat and has since been passed down to Willem (now 18 months). It's getting a little tight now, so I think it is retirement time. This was one outfit I'll definitely keep for sentimental reasons.

My mom also made this blue hoodie which James still wears. He's wearing it to school today.

And a green vest, which has just been passed to Willem.

These are the new ones which we'll see very soon.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Trio of Salads

I've made three yummy salads as main dishes in the last two weeks, all a little different.

Roasted Beet, Apple & Goat cheese Salad

3 beets
3 apples
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
small package goat cheese
package baby greens

Beet Dressing

Juices from beets
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp walnut oil

Preheat oven to 400F. Wrap the beets and apples in separate foil parcels, seasoning with salt & pepper and drizzling with a tbsp olive oil each.
Roast apples for about 20 minutes and beets for 40 minutes until tender. Then let cool. When cool enough peel beets & cut both into cubes.
Reserve the liquid from the beets cooking and cooling and add the dressing ingredients. (Any oil/vinegar combo would do) Whisk together.
Combine greens, beets, apples, cheese & dressing & Enjoy!!

Spinach, Bacon & Cranberry Salad

4 slices bacon
5 oz bag of baby spinach
1 small apple
small handful dried cranberries
1 tbsp roasted sunflower seeds

Cranberry Vinaigrette

1/4 cup cranberry juice
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 small packet (about 1/4 tsp) sugar substitute or sugar
salt & pepper

Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towel. Let cool & chop into small pieces.
Toss together the spinach & apple. Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat until just warmed.
Pour the dressing over the salad & sprinkle with bacon, cranberries & seeds.

Layered Pea Salad

*Sorry I forget to take a photo.

Layer the follow, in order:
2 sticks chopped celery
1 chopped red pepper
1/2 red onion, chopped
a cup of cooked peas

Mix together 1 heaped cup mayo, 1 tsp sugar or substitute, 1 tsp vinegar. Pour over top of salad. Top with cooked bacon and grated mild cheese.
I then wrap it in cling film and leave it for at least 12 hrs for the flavours to mingle.

This last one is a good make-ahead dinner and the whole family loves it.

Monday, November 23, 2009


It is that time of year not Christmas, but the day after. That is the official start day of the 2010 Stitchers Guild SWAP (Sewing with a Plan). I didn't finish last year as we moved half way through. I have a little more experience with planning (& executing plans) this year, so I'm sure I'll finish.

I really love the rules this year, as I can actually make dresses. There is an option with 5 dresses, so this is my choice. I will have to make 5 dresses, 4 tops, a bottom and another garment of choice. The rules also state that 2 of the items may be previously made or bought. One can be knitted or crocheted. At least one item must have some form of matched print or stripe, another needs some form of embellishment and yet another must have buttons as the star feature or have an alternative type of closure.

I've been working on a plan that is practical to wear, I want to wear this stuff, and also practical to make in the time frame.

I played with a few colour schemes and only got excited about this:

This colour scheme reminds of the last few minutes of a sunset, when everything is dark, but for that burst of colour on the horizon.

So this is what I have so far:


Skirt Burda 7610 View A, fabric still to be decided (TBD).
Skirt Loes Hinse Boot skirt in a black rayon (viscose) crepe.


Knitted boat neck raglan sweater in a red, purple, orange variegated yarn.
Loes Hinse Tank Dress Group tank in black rayon crepe with a lace hem.
New Look 6775 View D, Fabric TBD
Black silk blouse (already made) or another top if time permits


New Look 6775 View B, in a deep red & white polka dot.
Simplicity 2583 with short sleeve & neck knot, black, grey & white floral cotton pique.
Shirt dress, pattern TBD, in aubergine colour, with pretty distinctive buttons.
Embroidered or beaded fabric still to be found, with pattern TBD once I have fabric.
Knit fabric dress in black, grey or deep red/burgundy using New Look 6775.

I'll update once I find the outstanding patterns and fabric.

My storyboards (click to enlarge):

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cranberry Bran Muffins

There was some forum talk about cranberry muffins yesterday, so I was inspired to make some. I decided to try a new recipe, and chose the bran ones, as I adore bran muffins.

The recipe comes out of the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The New Classics. Unfortuntely this recipe doesn't seem to be on her website.

What's in it?

The usual muffin ingredients
Wheat bran
dark brown sugar
orange zest (the classic cranberry mate)
fresh or frozen cranberries

The result

This muffin is really tasty and satisfied my cranberry muffin craving. I used a suggestion I picked up to cut the berries while still frozen. This eliminates the exploding juicy berries and the resulting mess. There is a large amount of batter for the 12 muffins and I was able to make a bigger sized muffin.

As I've mentioned before, if the recipe isn't available online, I won't reprint it without permission. I would recommend this book, as it is big and has some really great recipes or check out your local library. Another option...said in a to go to google books, find the book and use the search box with the recipe name. This doesn't seem right to me, but it is there and you didn't hear it from me.

Now I hope I can keep family paws off the muffins so that our babysitter can have a treat tonight too. I'm going to the movies with hubbie, which is unusual for us with the kids and all. But I've waited a long time for this weekend. I'm going to admit a little guilty pleasure....I'm a Twilight fan. The movie based on the 2nd book, New Moon, was released last night, I'm sure you've heard about it. It seems Twilight mania is everywhere.

I've read all the books and watched the first movie numerous times. Okay I also admit owning the soundtrack & score to the 1st movie. But before you think I'm like an obssesed teenager, I have to say that I will never own a T-shirt, calendar or poster etc.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jam it, pickle it, cure it

I picked up this awesome book from our library. It features foodstuff usually not made from scratch such as butter, crackers, pasta, potato chips and it also has some great edible gift ideas. It is really well laid out and has some great photos. You can get a look inside on the amazon link above.

I thought I'd share the table of contents, as it gives a good idea of what's on offer:

1. MUNCH it - crackers, chips and dips
2. BOTTLE it - All manner of condiments
3. BRINE it - Pickles and olives
4. NOODLE it - Easy pasta, 3 ways
5. HOOK it - Preserved and cured fish
6. HUNT it - Prederved and cured meat
7. MILK it - Butter and cheese
8. JAM it - Preserves, curds and fruit butter
9. SUGAR it - Sweet treats
10. FREEZE it - Frozen confections
11. UNWRAP it - Making candy
12. DRINK it - Hard and soft beverages

This book is truly inspiring to any foodie. This is the type of book I will use over & over, okay maybe I should just buy it.

I tried one recipe before it had to be returned. I made fried potato chips, I split the batch and made half plain salted, suitable for the kids, and the rest was given BBQ flavour. The BBQ chips were great, as they were flavoured with cayenne pepper, liquid hickory smoke and molasses, I skipped the garlic the recipe called for.

The chips came out nice and crispy. I made the mistake of not draining some enough and put them in a bowl with the crispy ones. After a while my crispy chips weren't so crispy anymore. My bad. But they did taste really great.

I'm really eager to try some more of the recipes.

Minestrone Soup

With the weather turning cooler here in Canada, I thought some comfort cooking was in order.

This soup is hearty and stick-on-your-ribs good, without actually sticking on your ribs. The best part about this recipe is that my boys adore it. My eldest, James, actually stands near me while I prepare it so he can steal carrot and celery off the chopping board. Yes, I know shocker, he likes raw veg.

Minestrone Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 carrots, peeled & diced
2 sticks celery, sliced
2 potatoes, peeled & diced
1.5 litres vegetable stock (see note below)
1 can italian tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried basil
4 zucchini, sliced
1 cup farfalle (bowties) pasta (or other)

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Stir over medium heat until the onion is soft.
2. Add the potatoes, stock, tomatoes, tomato paste and basil. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
3. Bring to the boil again, then add the zucchini and pasta and boil until the pasta is cooked, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and season to taste.

Note: I use my own homemade stocks, I make large batches and freeze them in smaller containers.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We will remember them.

"They grow not old
As we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun,
And in the morning,
We will remember them."
(Lawrence Binyon)

Black Silk Blouse

I've finally finished my second garment for the Autumn Sew-along, which was actually started first. It is a TNT pattern, Simplicity 3887.

I'm still trying to improve the photo taking, but at least you can see the detailing on the black in the bright light.

I think it was the first time I've worked with silk and it was a little tricky, especially since I didn't want pin holes everywhere. I fudged the neckline on my first attempt, as the silk slipped and I sewed it on skew. It took several "surgical" procedures to get it looking at least symetrical. This is the reason for the long break, I started this in September and looked at it with a fresh head yesterday.

This will be a basic blouse to dress up for my numerous events.

Looking back at my original 6-PAC Plan, I think I'll try to finish the skirt and dress before the end of the month and will start the planned raincoat at a later stage. I'll be scrapping the idea for the patchwork vest, I'll use the fabric for a quilt or another project.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lounging around......

After finishing my Bamboo shirt, I decided a weekend of mindless sewing was in order. I opted to make a nice comfy pair of lounge/yoga/pj/walking pants.

My local Fabricland, a Canadian chain fabric store, is closing this month, so I bought up a bunch of patterns at cheap prices. Burda 7890,was among them. It has a lounge pant with large patch pockets and a corded waist casing. I picked up some cotton knit fabric in winter pink and sewed it up quickly. I used a pretty pink ribbon I had in my stash instead of cord for the waistline.

If I make this one again, I think I'll add elastic to the casing, as the pants want to ride down. might get annoying enough that I add elastic to this one too.

I must be subliminally in love with this colour, as I've owned two pairs of sweats in this exact colour, although they've both since bit the dust or more accurately being used to dust.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sewing Workshop Bamboo Shirt

I've just finished the Bamboo shirt and am pleased with how it turned out. The shirt is designed larger, so I made it in a size "small", a size smaller than my measurements and it is still very roomy, but I don't feel like I drown in it.

According to the pattern envelope, the Bamboo Top is: Very loose-fitting, unlined jacket/top has slightly forward shoulder seams, extended shoulders, shoulder pleats, mock neck band, front band and yoke shield, vertical welt pocket and long two-piece sleeves pleated into button cuffs.

Quite a mouthful.

This was my first welt pocket and my first successful buttonholes with this machine. I've had horrendous problems in the past making buttonholes and have avoided making them like the plague. But I chose this pattern to force myself to resolve the issues.

My machine is a Nina, a basic Bernina, that was sold in South Africa. It seems to be equivalent to a Bernette 70/75. Yes, I know I need a newer machine...but now that I've fixed this issue, I'm content with this one. It uses a one-step buttonhole method.

The buttonhole solution:
1) A fresh machine needle
2) a freshly wound bobbin
3) Proper positioning of the buttonhole lever
4) Making sure that the stitching area is smooth, I actually moved the placement at the bottom button and the third one down so that I wasn't making buttonholes over seam allowances.

So my confidence has returned!!! I've also finished my first garment in my 6-PAC Plan. I can now change serger threads and move onto all the black garments, I still have until the end of the month to finish.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Beef Brisket with Onion-Lemon Marmalade

I've been out sick this last week with a nasty ear infection. So it's been take-out or noodles and jar sauce all week. So I've looked back at some of the yummy meals I made pre-sickness, and thought I'd share this one.

The "marmalade" this is cooked in is just to die for, it was just amazingly yummy, I would recommend cooking any other meat in this mix. It was sticky and gooey and had just the right amount of lemony goodness.

The recipe is here.

I was not a huge fan of the actual meat on the 1st night, it was a little too fatty for my family's liking, but that was my fault, not the recipe. I had the leftovers the next day for lunch and had removed all the fatty bits and it was very tasty. I'm usually a big fan of alcohol and (or in, or with) cooking, but opted for apple juice instead of port since we had just visited the apple farms and I had lots of fresh apple juice. The onion and lemon caramelized over the cooking period and turned sweet, so there was no sour or sharp onion taste.

I served my meal with baked sweet potato fries and swiss chard from my garden.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!!!!

Couldn't resist...they were too cute!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

O Canada!!!

In honour of writing my Canadian citizenship test tomorrow, I thought I'd share a quiz from the CBC. This quiz is based on information in the study guide.

So if you're Canadian, take the test and see how well you know your country. If you're not Canadian, see if you'd qualify?

I have studied and scored 10/10 (of course), post your results in the comments. What do you love about Canada or what do you associate with Canada??


CBC Citizenship Test

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gingery Bread Pudding with Orange

This dessert is made in a slowcooker and comes from Judith Finlayson's book Delicious & Dependable Slow Cooker Recipes.

A link to the recipe is here.

I chose this recipe because I have an abundance of bread in my house and it must be used up. I liked this particular recipe because the ginger and orange marmalade is an interesting alternative to the apricot/peach jam and raisin version that is most common.

Hubby is away on business, so I will be snuggling on my couch, having dessert and watching TV tonight. It was 12 grain bread, so not too figure unfriendly, so I will be allowed to eat it with whipped cream to balance things out ;)

Note: I'll try as far as possible to provide the actual recipes I use, but will not reprint recipes from books as I believe this is a copyright violation. If I find the recipe on another site, I'll provide the link.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'm in LOVE...but can I do it??

This is the object of my undying affection......

It is the Minimissimi Sweater Coat, scroll down on the link's page to get some more views. I found this last week and have been drooling over it ever since.

Now I have never knitted anything this complicated before and have never used a chart when knitting, I love to knit but am absolutely no expert. So I might be fooling myself, but I think I want to try this.
How should I go about it? I think I should try little steps and practice the cables with yarn in my stash and see how it goes first.

The good thing is that I'm visiting my mom in December and I know she'd be able to knit this, so I should aim to start it while I'm there and she can give me pointers while I go. I should also join a knitting group once I get back home so that I could get tips & help from more experienced knitters.

The other excuse to start it in South Africa, is that there's this little wool farm snuggled into the mountains in the winelands and I've always loved to visit it and buy their wool. I sure hope it still exists, because this sweater coat is screaming for their wool.

So a challenge it is!! But what a reward!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

South African Milk Tart

I promised to make some of my South African favourites and here is my first. It is a lovely creamy tart ideal for dessert or tea time.

Melktert as it is known in Afrikaans, my 2nd language, has many variations. This version is my favourite and is the one my mom gave me. Beware of some recipes on the internet, if it doesn't say traditional South African or at least written by a South African, I've found they're too sweet and sometimes don't set properly. My mom uses a cookie crumb base, but I had a frozen pie shell so I used that instead.

I had a South African food evening with some girlfriends earlier this year and it was a hit, so enjoy.

Milk Tart recipe

1 prepared pie crust or crush cookies and mix with melted butter.
30 ml corn flour/starch
1 egg
30 ml flour
500 ml milk (2 cups)
Pinch salt
½ cup (125 ml) sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Line a serving dish with cookies crumbs mixed with melted butter or prepare a pie crust according to its directions.
Beat egg, sugar, flour, corn flour, salt and vanilla. Boil milk. Pour boiling milk over egg mixture and stir. Return to pan. Bring to Boil, stirring all the time. Mixture must thicken. Pour into prepared pie dish and refrigerate until set. Serve sprinkled with cinnamon

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

From the Sea

This last week I made two meals with seafood. Firstly clams on the weekend and steamed fish last night.

Clam Pilaf

An easy one pot meal, using the ingredients I had in stock.

2 cans clams
1 medium onion
Tomatoes, I used 3 plum tomatoes, so 1 1/2 cups
1 cup raw rice
2 tbsp butter (or marg)
2 tbsp olive (or other) oil
about 1/2 tsp dried oreganum

1. Melt the butter and add oil and heat.
2. Add onion and saute until golden.
3. Add the clams, clam liquid/water, rice, chopped tomatoes and oreganum and simmer, covered, until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.
4. Season to taste and serve. (Note I didn't add salt as the clam juice is already salty)

Steamed Fish

I went to the market and picked up fresh haddock and a bunch of lemons and limes, so this was what I came up with:

fish fillets
lemons & limes
bay leaves
olive oil

I lined a baking dish in aluminum foil and placed sliced limes, lemons, a few bay leaves and sliced red chilli as a "cushion" for the fish. I laid the fish on top and added a dash of salt and olive oil. I then placed more lemon and limes slices on top with some more chilli and a sprinkling of fresh parsley (from my garden).

I made two fillets and and didn't add the chiili to the one, so it was kid-friendly.

I then made an aluminum foil tent over the fish and pinched the sides to keep the steam inside. I then put the fish in the oven (I used the Broil/grill setting) and cooked it until the fish was opaque white and flaky. The steam method keeps the fish nice and moist and infuses it with flavour.