Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Knitting for big girls

For weeks, I have been slowly knitting a Neighborly vest for a non-knitting friend. She loved the vest I knit for her daughter last year and wanted one in her own size. I can do the math for this right? Perhaps I can...but I didn't. I copied someone else's modifications from ravelry without hesitation. Now that I'm nearing the finish line, I have spotted the flaw in my actions.

(this is me, trying on the vest over my clothes while trying not to drop stitches off needles)

Copying someone else's modifications is all well and good, if the person is specific about the outcome (this person wasn't) and knit exactly as you do (not likely). Without a thought in my head about stitch count or measurements, I increased and increased stitches until it would seem I am knitting a maternity vest (um, recipient-friend is not preggers).

I know I need to unknit about twenty rows, undoing increases as I go, and restart from the first row of trouble.
I know this.
But I do not like to un-knit.
At all.

I am much more tempted to finish it as it is and gift it to a preggers friend; intended recipient will have to wait. Very tempting, though not very nice since my friend bought the yarn and has been patiently waiting for several months already (hey, I would pay for the yarn so...).


Sunday, September 25, 2011

iPod dock repair

Our beloved Bose dock has expired and gone to meet its maker. It has run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. It is an ex-dock.
Of course, a new, fancy-pants dock will cost hundreds more dollars than necessary because we live in Australia, justifying Bose's attempt to charge whatever they like (almost twice the US price!). It's not a happy prospect.
Hubby is an engineer, so he decided to take matters into his own hands. We now have bits of Bose dock strewn all over the kitchen counter. Then he searched online and found this repair video, that I feel you must watch if you have any sense of humor that needs stimulating today:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Foray into vintage

Over the past year, I have begun a foray into the world of vintage clothing. I'm more than a little smitten. The more I learn about garment construction and fabric as an amateur seamstress, the less I appreciate what I find in the shops. Good vintage, on the other hand, can be a goldmine of quality and a heap of fun when you find the perfect item (like my favorite Crimplene-fabulous Flamingo Airlines dress, purchased with the original tags still attached)!

Months ago, I purchased (and immediately felt buyer's remorse over) a lace wiggle dress from a vintage shop in Fremantle. It was in very good condition, and it fit like a glove. The shop owner told me she'd been looking to stock them for ages but couldn't find any due to the Mad Men craze. This was the first she'd found in good shape, but it hadn't fit anyone well, including herself or she would have kept it. I felt it must have been waiting for me and I had to have it! Of course, as soon as it was mine, I wondered just what the heck I'd been thinking. Seriously? A yellowed, champagne-colored lace wiggle dress with a chiffon bottom? Exactly where was I supposed to wear that? Forehead whack. Sigh.

My birthday is now just around the corner, so I decided, perhaps, although she's a bit over the top, this lace wiggle dress might be just the birthday outfit I needed. I gave her a good soak...and watched the water turn a disgusting mustard yellow! I wish I'd taken a before photo. It's amazing! Instead of yellowed, champagne-color, she's more ivory with a peach under-layer.

She's in for her second soak now, and the mustard yellow water is also starting to smell of stale cigarette. She's giving up years of damage right now...but she's looking gorgeous! This baby has seen some cocktail parties in her day! Apparently, she was waiting for me after all. I can tell she and I are going to be close friends...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rainbow cupcakes and bead bowls

My big girl recently celebrated her 6th birthday by hosting an art party for her friends. They painted acrylics on canvas boards, decorated hair clips, experimented with piping bags as they decorated their own cupcakes and made bead bowls to carry home all their little goodies. It was a fantastic party! My two favorite ideas were inspired by finds on pinterest and on The Artful Parent blog, so I thought I'd pass them along to you.

I am exceedingly proud of the rainbow cupcakes (found on Artful Parent). I took them a step further and made six layers to incorporate red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

The only way to get such vibrant colors without a heckuva lot of food coloring is to use food coloring gels. (I made sure to buy the no-taste red). Of course, spreading each layer out separately took ages, and six layers made for some seriously hefty cupcakes. Next time, I'll just drop a dollop of each color in the cupcake paper and let it all bubble up and swirl together to be a rainbow marble cupcake rather than fuss about pristine layers (or sweat and swear as they bubble up and overflow the muffin cups in the oven...ahem).

When they were cool, I spread a layer of white buttercream frosting on top, filled six piping bags with different colors of frosting with different shaped tips, and then I let the kiddos decorate their own. They loved it!

The other big hit was the bead bowls we made as they arrived at the party. This was a pinterest find (originally here), and the girls (and their parents) really enjoyed it. The process is pretty simple and the result is really cute.

  • You will need an oven-safe bowl, vegetable oil, plenty of those melty beads usually used on spiked shapes and then ironed (mine are from IKEA), and an oven.

  • Heat the oven to around 250C (450F).
  • Coat the inside of the bowl with the vegetable oil. The beads will stick to this to make the shape, and the oil prevents beads from sticking to the bowl itself.
  • Pour in a lot of beads and roll the bowl around to settle the beads in a single layer. Add more beads as needed. Any excess can easily pour back out again before baking.
  • Place the bead-coated bowls in the center rack of the hot oven and allow the heat to do its work for 5 minutes or so, monitoring progress to know when the beads start to melt together.
  • Once they melt, remove the bowl from oven and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack. When cool, your bead bowl releases easily from the ceramic; if still warm, it will likely leave a residue or melty bits on your bowl (not good).
  • If the oil residue on the beads bothers you, you can wash your new bead bowl in the sink and the oil should come off without a problem.
  • **These plastic beads reportedly release toxic fumes when hot, so an adult should do the oven part with the exhaust fan on. This is also true when using the beads on the frames with the iron, so beware.**

These bowls made an awesome alternative to traditional party bags and did double duty as a party activity and candy container at the party's end. Almost all of the girls have decided they must use them at home to hold their hairclips, because really, why not?

What fun ideas have you come across on the web lately?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Baked oatmeal

Heidi Swanson's super natural every day continues to be a revelation of foodie goodness. This morning: baked oatmeal. Excuse me while I say OMG. Until now, I've never been a huge oatmeal fan. It's okay, but I'd rather have something else most of the time. Not so with baked oatmeal. Wow. Yum! I wanted to call and wake up the neighbors so I could bring some over to share while it was hot out of the oven.

Of course, my kidlets wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole. Well, one did, just to irritate my dear Miss Super-Picky, but then even she moved onto cold cereal. Their loss. Seriously. Hubby had already eaten half of his usual bircher muesli by the time the baked oatmeal was ready, so he just wanted to try it...and downed two helpings in a flash.

If you love good eatin', do yourself a favor and purchase this cookbook immediately (you can find six sample recipes here). Your tummy will thank you.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Kiddo lounge spot (or reading nest)

What did I do with those envelope-style cushion covers, you ask?

Neither of my girls likes to sleep on the top bunk, so that space is sadly unused. It becomes a repository of all manner of whatnots tossed up there by kiddos (and sometimes parents) and, at times, has even become a bit dusty. Not good.

Now that my big girl is a reader, she often sets herself up in the middle of the floor on a small chair and reads as if she's the teacher in front of the class. It's very upright and proper, but it doesn't look very relaxing. I decided to convert that unused top bunk into a reading nest (or as she prefers to call it, her lounge spot).

I tossed the four, freshly covered pillows up there along with some extraneous pillows from around the house, and voila! She loves it and often retreats there to read now, much to our mutual delight. Of course, little sisters have to get in on the joy sometimes too...

So much fun cannot possibly be contained.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What became of the fabric

Envelope-style cushion covers.

Who knew they would be the easiest things in the world to make? Not me, as I interrogated a very patient Aussie Mum not once but twice about the detailed steps required. Ha! As if that were necessary (though she was sainted enough not to say as much to my face).

Here's how to make your own:
Measure the width of your cushion.
Then wrap the tape measure around and overlap as much as you want the cover to overlap in the back.
Write down those numbers and add an inch to each for seams.
On the short ends, fold over 1/4" twice to enclose raw edge and stitch down.
Sew zigzag stitch all the way down the long sides.
Then, fold the fabric (wrong-side out) into envelope, check the measurement, pin sides and sew each side edge shut with a straight stitch.
Flip right-side out, push out your corners, and stuff the cushion inside.
Done! No buttons, zips, nada!

And I've got one happy kid here. She loves these cushions! I almost feel vindicated for lugging around that cheap IKEA duvet cover for the past four years (and 2 countries)...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

(gail, look away) I poached an egg!

Let me preface this by admitting that I am not a big egg fan. I simply don't care much for them as a breakfast solo act. Not my thing. But you see, Australians on the whole are big breakfast fans. It's not uncommon to find all day breakfast at many restaurants, and forget eating anything other than brunch on a Sunday. The star: Eggs. Without fail.

Whilst lamenting this phenomenon to a friend, she turned to face me, shock written all over her face, stunned to realize that I hadn't even tried Eggs Benedict. "Eggs Benedict is absolutely delicious, my absolute favorite...not at all egg-y. Poached eggs aren't like other eggs."

But trying said poached eggs in a restaurant would cost upwards of $15 for something that, let's face it, I'm fully prepared not to like. Poaching an egg at home is rumored to be seriously overcomplicated, thus an abundance of silicone molds and other plastic poaching assistants in the kitchen shops. I'm not too intrigued by those either. Enter my latest favorite cookbook, Heidi Swanson's super natural every day. In the back, she has a two-page discussion of egg poaching technique and promises that her method results in a perfectly poached egg every time. Bold claim! I had to try it, if only for the fun of the kitchen chemistry experiment...and voila!

Wow. I poached an egg. A beautifully, perfectly poached egg on the very first try.
While I will come clean and admit I did not finish it (there is still a texture threshold to be crossed here), I may just have to try Eggs Benedict next...

**my wonderful friend gail once explained her vegetarian (now vegan) lifestyle to me. even when she wasn't vegan, she couldn't even consider eating eggs because "that's just gross." so, sorry, gail. I think you will appreciate the kitchen chemistry, though. it's pretty magical, making that perfect little egg parcel.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Happy 1st Day of Spring!

Spring has come to Perth, and we enjoyed a warm, glorious day in the sunshine!

The last picture is formerly-an-eyesore of a vacant lot near our house, which suddenly burst into bloom for the occasion.

Happy Spring, everyone!