Thursday, 30 May 2013

gardening endavours and lemons

Ever since I moved to Australia I have had this fascination with growing my own food. We don't have a backyard, but books like The Edible Balcony keep this flight of fancy alive despite its varies issues.  My maiden name was Garden and for some reason, I carry this idea that I can do anything garden-related if I just put my mind to it, because, you know, with a name like that, how could you not :-) Oh, what I would give for a balcony like this ... (it's from the book)

We had a variety of plants on it over the years, but the strawberries have always gotten some sort of mouldy disease, the tomatoes also struggled, and the lettuce is bitter. On the herbs side we were slightly more successful. Thyme, Oregano and Dill do really well. Basil is a bit temperamental, but okay. Rosemary always dies eventually and coriander, when it actually germinates, gets eaten by something.

My husband dream of an orchard, so for 3 years we had a dwarf avocado tree, that eventually died due to some type of grub eating it's roots. I tried to get rid of the grubs, but they always came back. Eventually I bagged up the tree and the soil and threw it out. Not to be defeated, a year ago, we bought a lemon tree ... inspired mostly by Carolyn's lemon tree.

And looksie ... 6 lemons survived to ripen. 5 on the little tree ...

and we picked one ...

for our lovely Greek inspired lamb roast on Sunday. Disaster struck when our internet went down on Saturday and we had no recipes printed out ... only a shopping list. We decided to improvise on the recipe (a mix of oregano, rosemary, thyme, mint, lemon, garlic) and defer the baking part to a later date, but the leg of lamb looked and tasted great. It made for wonderful leftovers that were put in some pita bread with some yoghurt, garlic and cucumber mix :-)

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Lekala 4099

I wanted to thank everyone for the kind comments on the Pumpkin Scone Recipe.  In fact, the comment from velosewer about Greek pastries led me to the conclusion that Greek cuisine is mostly ... well ... Greek to me. Brisbane does have a wonderful Greek community and they just had their festival, but, alas, various Kindy fetes, birthday parties and sleep overs conspired against me actually attending it. Thus I have declared next weekend to be a Greek weekend ... I shall research the menu extensively (i.e. spend a leisurely hour surfing velosewers food blog when I really should be doing other things) and let you know how I get on with this. Hopefully we'll end up with something all children and adults will eat and maybe like to eat again :-)

Anyway, back to Lekala. I love them in theory, no seriously, the idea of having made to measure patterns for my measurements is great. Their website is like a candy store that offers new surprises every day. However, like a candy store, it has a few drawbacks. The biggest, I think, is the instructions. They are minimal, translated somewhat questionable from Russian. The PDF pattern fits together mostly, but that could very well be a printer issue. Over all the PDF is not onerous though. Having downloaded a skirt pattern from somewhere else and ended up with 60 odd pages, the Lekala patterns I have range from 17 pages for a T-Shirt top and 24 pages for a coat. The price is great. Once you register on their website you get a 10% discount on the pattern and you have to register to buy, so the pattern is like $2.10. I keep reading about the $0.99 US sales, but that never quite happens down here ... sigh ... it's probably a good thing as I have no self-control :-)

Lekala 4099 is a dolman sleeve jersey top with a gathered wide sleeve. I had intended to use Cation Design's free Dolman Sleeve top and modify it, but I thought it might be a good way to try out Lekala. I had read some bad reviews, about their sizes being too small (no ease etc), so I was a bit weary.

I used Spotlight's new brushed Jersey for that (yes, I know it was not in my stash), but I really wanted a black top and there was nothing in my stash. I lowered the neckline a bit and shortened the sleeves, but looking at the pictures now, I didn't actually need to shorten the sleeves as they ride up a bit.

This might well be the white sponge of cake sewing. It is perhaps the most useful thing I have sewn so far (except for the sleep masks that we use daily).

It's not as fitted as some of my other tops, which probably means I wear them too tight usually. However, Jersey and I am going to become best friends in the next few months, because I have started to exercise in the lost month of April. I can see some results already and I don't really want to go through the pain of fitting things that don't fit right a few months later. Overall, I was really happy with the pattern and the fit. I didn't need any instructions really and I imagine I will make many more tops from this pattern.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Mother's Day Baking - Spiced Pumpkin Scones (egg and dairy free)

When I first started this blog, I had intended to also write about my adventure in cooking. You see, I knew how to cook in my youth, but, to be honest, I preferred take-aways or just already prepared food like fresh pasta where all you had to do is put it in hot water for 3 min and heat up some sauce in the microwave. Then I had my son and at 6 months, he all of a sudden started choking at the dinner table and it turned he was allergic to dairy and eggs. My finely crafted dinner plan was all of a sudden shot to pieces ...

Prior to my son I had always left baking to Marks and Spencers, but alas, at 4 my son wanted a Dinosaur cake just like his friends ... so the journey began. We had some spectacular mishaps especially with baking, but now I can't imagine going back. We were pleasantly surprised to find that last year, 7 years after his first trip to hospital, he had outgrown his egg allergy.

For Mother's Day today, they baked me some pumpkin scones ... and I thought I really need to share, because they are just soooo awesome. I have already eaten 3 :-)

The are both egg and dairy free and we usually use Jap pumpkin for it. It is a particularly sweet pumpkin and I had first found here in Australia, but it is also sometimes called a kent pumpkin.

To make the pumpkin purée, you cut the pumpkin in half , clean out all the seeds, put it cut side down on the baking tray and roast it in the oven at 180C for about an hour. It really depends on the size of your pumpkin and your oven, but it is really not hard. After it is cooled, you purée or mash it. Any that you don't use, you can freeze for later.

For the scones, you'll need:
1/2 cup of brown sugar
3 1/2 cups of plain flour
2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of bicarb of soda
3 tsp of ginger powder (or mixed spice if you prefer that instead)
1/2 cup of dairy free margarine (in Australia we use Nutelex)
2 cups of puréed pumpkin

1, in a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients well
2, cut in the margarine
3, add the puréed pumpkin and mix thoroughly

Please note that if the puréed pumpkin was stored in the fridge, the dough is less gooey and can be kneaded by hand on a floury surface. If the pumpkin is still a bit warm, it melts the margarine a bit and the dough can't really be kneaded as it is too sticky (as you can see above). In this case just use a spoon and mix it well. The end product tastes great regardless.

4, form the scones and put onto a baking tray that is lined with baking paper. Some people form a rough circle and then cut 12 triangles, others just form 10-12 rough circles. In our case, the kids added some more pumpkin and it was a bit sloppy, so we used  metal spoon and put blobs unto the tray.

5, bake at 200C or 425F for 12-15 min or until done (our oven always takes longer)

In the mean time, amuse your children with the left overs to prevent them from climbing into the oven :-)

I like to eat mine as warm as possibly ... maybe I could have another one for desert.

Happy Mother's Day to everyone.

Friday, 10 May 2013

the lost month of April

after the production of the Gridlock dress I was a bit at odds with what I wanted to do next. I needed a pallet cleanser - the sorbet of the sewing world - but I struggled making my mind up.

I bought and downloaded the Audrey C dress from Maria Denmark. As far as PDF patterns go it was a pleasure to put together and it all went well until I got to the neck binding/facing and somehow it all didn't work. I ended up doing my own neckband and now it has been patiently waiting to be hemmed ... and it is still waiting. I am undecided to the exact length and how to do it. I bought myself a twin needle for just that occasion, but ...

As it got colder here in Brisbane I was reminded of my New Years Resolution: to knit myself a jumper. It'll be a short-sleeved top I think as I messed up the sizes. The pattern is from a book and whilst I was reading it, the 2 inches wearing ease made perfect sense, however once I got to the bust and I tried it on I realised that I NEVER EVER have 2 inches wearing ease in my jumpers, because I like it more fitted. I couldn't bear to start again, so I omitted some of the increases and added some waist shaping and it is not too bad now. Also it'll serve as a test case as to whether the cotton will shrink and how it wears. It's like a muslin really and I have an awful lot of the yarn ... 12 balls to be exact and I only need 2 per top (it's the Bendigo Woollen Mills Cotton 200 gr balls and they go far)

About 6 nights ago, I was fortunate enough in that my daughter started to sleep through the night, after waking up 2-3 times every night - she is 4 years old so take note people without children sometimes they don't sleep through at 6 months. I am sure it won't last, maybe she is coming down with something, but you know what they say about gift horses, anyway after 2 nights of uninterrupted sleep I felt much more energetic and started to declutter my stash.

I donated about 10m of fabric to my daughter's Kindy and 15 balls of yarn that I was never going to use. The fabric were pieces that were given to me or that didn't survive the wash or that were plain ugly - what were you thinking Giggles when you bought a yellow/orange/pink piece of mostly polyester seersucker. I still have more to do, but it feels much less oppressive now ...