Friday, 21 June 2013

Spicy Chocolate Banana Brownie - dairy free (and egg-free option)

I love brownies ... we didn't have them when I grew up and I can't believe I survived into adulthood ;-) It is a firm family favourite and can be customised in any which way you like.

Brownie Recipe:

2 cups of plain flour
3/4 cup of unsweetened dairy free cocoa powder
1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp of salt
2 tsp of mixed spice (omit if you don't want to do a spiced brownie)

3/4 cup of dairy free margarine
180 gr of dark cooking chocolate (dairy free)
1 cup of dark brown sugar firmly packed

2 eggs (or 2 egg-free egg replacements - Organ does a No-Egg that is available in health food stores - or if you can't find egg replacer you can also use 1/4 cup of 100% corn flour)

2 ripe puréed bananas - or a cup of other puréed fruit like stewed apples or pears or raspberries

if you like it extra chocolaty, add 1 cup of dairy free chocolate chips as well


1, preheat oven to 180 degrees

2, mix flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, mixed spice in a bowl (and cornflour if you are not using eggs)

3, in a separate bowl, melt margarine and chocolate in the microwave. In my microwave it takes 2 min on high and then I leave it to sit for 3-5 mins until the chocolate is all melted

4, add sugar to the margarine and chocolate mix

5, add either eggs or no eggs (if you use cornflour you mix that in with the flour in step 2)

6, add flour mix and stir until no lumps remain

7, add banana - or other fruit (if you use cornflour you might want to add a little extra as the cornflour tend to dry it out a bit)

8, mix in the chocolate chips if you so desire


line a brownie tin with baking paper and add the mix

Baking times: it really depends on your oven and just how cooked you like your brownies.
  • I like mine slightly undercooked, so I bake it in a small brownie tin (7x7 in) for 30 min.
  • If you bake it for 40 min it'll be cooked and if you insert a toothpick into the centre it'll come out clean.
  • If you use a larger tin and the mix is spread more thinly, the cooking time needs to be reduced
  • If you use cornflour, you need to reduce the cooking time by 10 - 15 min as it cooks quicker and can dry out. 
As you can see, mine still has a gooey centre ... yum ... and no, I wasn't able to get a picture before the ravenous hordes got to it (yes, I do include myself in that)

Thursday, 20 June 2013

what to wear and what to sew

I am pear-shaped. I have been pear-shaped ever since I got curves and it is most likely that I'll stay pear-shaped for the rest of my life. Even when I got really ill and lost like 15 kg and became underweight, I was still pear shaped, although to a lesser degree I suppose. However judging by the women in my family, if I gain more weight I may also turn into an apple ... hmm

When I look for what I could wear as a pear (teheehee ... it rhymes) they often show pictures of celebrities to illustrate their point of view, but I think it is safe to say that that somewhat defeats the purpose. Most of these celebrities are barely a pear. They haven't exactly what you'd refer to as good birth-giving hips or thunder thighs.

I think, for Brisbane, I need to move away from the wardrobe to wear all year around (like in the UK) and move towards the distinctly seasonal wardrobe to suit the hot 'n humid summers and the cooler windy winters. I also have to become more sun-smart as I react to most sunscreens unfavourably with a rash, so less exposed skin would be good.  Maybe a floaty dress like this for Christmas that skims the thighs ...
I do have plenty of clothes, but I do need to start replacing some of the more worn ones. I frequently run short of consumables like jersey tops - last summer I really only wore plain t-shirts, but I now have a few patterns to spice this up a little - and I have no linen pants, which I think would suit the weather here really well. I have got Sewaholics Thurlow trousers for that, but I have never made pants before and I am SCARED. 

In order to direct both my fabric stash and pattern hoarding I am trying to make a plan and stick with it. I have no problems with the first part, but the second .... :-)

I am currently finishing of a jersey top, another Lekala 4099 this time with long sleeves. I have bought the Woodland Stroll Cape pattern and I have all the materials, so really I should do this next before the winter ends.

After that however I have many options ...

1, I have the Hummingbird pattern. I intended to do this with a piece of denim I had, but it is not substantial enough, I think. I have other fabrics such as an embroidered linen, but it would be more of a spring skirt and I can't quite motivate myself to start with that yet. Although, who knows how long it'll take me to 'whip up' that cape, for all I know we could be talking summer here.

2, I do have some fabric to make up a trumpet skirt, which suits a pear shape. However it requires a careful muslin as it is way too long and the flare has to be just right for the petite figure. I have two patterns there and the first muslin of the first pattern was a bit of a disaster, so I put it on the back burner. Perhaps it's time to look at it again.

3, a cardigan of any description. I have a few patterns in mind, but nothing definite. All things being even, cardis are my favourite type of clothing and I am a little gutted that I can't wear them in Brisbane for like 6 mths a year.

4, in August, I need to make a couple of boxer shorts for the husband and the son to sleep in, after which the daughter is likely to let me know her dissatisfaction on being left out, so I'll be making her a dress as well.

5, in September I'd like to make myself a dress for spring. I have like 5 different patterns that I could do and I have various pieces in my stash for those. I did for a moment toy with the idea of Colette's new Hawthorn dress, but I found the last Colette dress rather difficult to fit, so I might just stick with something I already have.

There are many more options in my stash ... we shall see :-)

Sunday, 16 June 2013

a nighty or is it nightie ???

As the pyjama party sew-a-long is in full swing over at Karen's I felt inspired to make something for sleeping in as well. Sadly I don't wear pyjama pants and believe me, by the amount of enthusiasm for the sew-a-long I really wished I was, but my legs just get too hot whereas my upper half is covered in icicles. I felt I need to give Audrey C another twirl.

It's made from organic french terry ... so so soft, but not very stretchy. I added a whole 2 inches to the front piece and another inch to the back piece to accommodate the lack of stretchiness. I changed the back darts to a back centre seam and it worked fine, but the lovely Carolyn suggested to take it out of the side seams, so that'll be my next try. To reign in the neckline I made a little pleat out of the 2 inches that I added and I salvaged one of the previously discarded neckbands from the Audrey C in Raspberry.

That'll teach me to do something like a neckband right after I had problems with the darts. I was probably all huffy and puffy from the darts and the poor neckbands never stood a chance ... sigh. I lengthen the arms - I like half of my hands covered as well, but shortened the overall length. To finish it off, I appliquéd 2 little hearts a la Alabama Chanin onto it. I had her books out various times from the library and just love them.

I will spare you all the picture of me in the nighty as it is a bit shorter then I am comfy to post on the internet for all and sundry to see :-)

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Fastest Cardi EVER

I did it ... I knitted something wearable that is not a scarf ... go me. I give you the tonsil cardigan - Mr. Giggles is cringing at the name, but if the shoe fits ... :-)

It was part of my New Years resolution, because I have been knitting for a long long time (over 25 years) and whilst I was a girl, I did make tank tops for myself as soon as I got breasts and curves and anything really that might require fitting, I stuck to scarves and blankets.

Anyway, I have a lot of yarn left over from my dad's blanket and whilst it is not a natural fibre, it is very soft and chunky. Two weeks ago my daughter had her tonsils and adenoids out and, as she was operated on, I cast on the first stitches. The shape is based on the Shalom Cardigan, but I had a different gauge, I changed the yoke, I did different increases etc ...

I used 9mm needles, because I had those and the swatch looked nice. I know, I should have probably chosen something where I had the correct gauge and where I just had to follow instructions, but I knew that 3 stitches and 4 rows made a 1 inch square and I went from there. I had to redo some bits, for example, when I finished the top grey stripe I realised I had cast on too large a neck line and the entire bottom blue stripe had to go, because I had calculated the increases from the waist wrong and it looked more like a peplum. Nevertheless, even with all the changes I worked on this cardi for a total of 6 days, although 2 were long days (I finished the yoke), because they were spent in the hospital with a drugged 4 year old ... a luxury that I normally don't have, as said 4 year old likes to keep me busy.

I have no ideas whether it'll wash or how it'll wear, but I have been agonising about knitting cardigans and pullovers for so long and in the end, there is only so much thinking you can do before you should start doing. It doesn't close in the front and there were moments when I contemplated of redoing the bottom section again, but in the end I'll see how this one fares. I have still got more of this yarn (Moda Vera Shiver), so I'll make a couple of cowls maybe either for myself or maybe as presents :-)

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Audrey C in Raspberry

Finally back to Stashbustin'. It's been a longer break then I intended.

This dress had been waiting to be hemmed for some time. I am still unsure of whether I should shorten it a bit more. If I would wear it mostly with tights then yes, but in reality I am most likely to wear it without, it being Queensland and all, and then I probably don't want to shorten it, cause those little dimples on my thighs don't need to be shared liberally with the world at large.

This is the Audrey C Dress from Maria Denmark. I used a bamboo knit with 4% lycra from the Bamboo Fabric Store. I was under the impression I ordered the colour red, but after I washed it it looked definitely hot pink.

I have mixed feelings about this dress ... sigh.

It promised to be such an easy dress, essentially a long t-shirt. The printout of the pattern went together very well, although I had to trace my size with a colour pen as it printed out in light grey. The neckband didn't print out correctly and no matter what I did, it refused ... the joys of technology

However, the fabric was a 4 way stretch not a 2 way as the pattern asked for. I graded out for my larger hips, but it's still a bit tight around my hip/bottom. I made the skirt more A-line and I shortened the arms a little.

This is a rather unflattering picture of my back, but it probably illustrates all my problems with the dress.

It came out a little small. Either I got the sizes wrong (always a possibility) or the fabric stretched whilst I cut is or even a combination of both. Either way, combined with my least favourite bra and a pair of tights that digs in a little, it is not particularly flattering look on me. However I have a wide belt that I could wear with the dress and thus eliminate at least one of the rolls on the back.

You can't really tell from the picture, but the patterns has 2 back darts and there my fabric choice came back to bite me. I did the darts in a straight stitch, but because it is a 4 way stretch it didn't really work. I had to shorted them and resew them in a small zigzag stitch and then I struggled getting them to lay flat.

I don't know whether I like darts in knit fabric, but since this is the first time I came across them, I am keeping an open mind. My personal preference leans towards adding a back seam and omitting the darts if I make this pattern again.

Finally, after the issue with the darts, which only became apparent once I tried the dress on, I started on the neckband ... ohhh the neckband. I screwed up the neck band REPEATEDLY, no really, this is version 4 and it's staying, I don't care that it is not laying flat.

All of the issues are issues that arose with my lack of experience, so overall I think it is a wonderful pattern. I do like the idea of knit jersey dresses, but I mostly wear separates, so I've got to see how much I'll actually end up wearing the dress and see whether I should make anymore :-)

Saturday, 1 June 2013

the Cricket Scarf

No, don't worry, it's not a scarf worn by either cricketers or the people watching the cricket. We're not that crazy here in Queensland ... yet ... the heat gets to us all :-)

It is a scarf that a mother with little interest in the game knits whilst watching her son's training and junior games. Go supportive Giggles ... I even stood on the side of some field in the middle on nowhere, watching in the pouring rain, wondering whether my car would make it off the strip of grass it was parked on since it is not a four wheel drive, cause Junior cricket gets played regardless of the weather.

It has been finished for a while, but somehow I never found the time or weather to take the pictures.

It's a teal cotton/soy mix I picked up at the fabric-a-brac almost a year ago and my own pattern. It has a 5 stitch garter border and then alternates 5x5 stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch.

I loved knitting it and I adore wearing it. It is so soft and beautiful. The colour is not coming out in the pictures with the white background, it is more vibrant in real life. Happiness and joy :-)