Thursday, December 29, 2011

Made with Love Christmas

Here are my handmade efforts for Christmas this year...  I'm pretty chuffed with the outcome and, with the whole clan in attendance this year, their appreciation made all the late nights so worth it!!!  Love you guys!!

Home made star by Little Miss M.  Santa came to visit and forgot to wipe his shoes at the front door!

Technically a "Bon Voyage" present - pillow bags with pillows.  I'm so happy with the outcome as it was my own design.  The inspiration, though, came from here.  


For the little girls


Two of the Three Little Maids 
(thanks to Jodie Carlton of Vintage Ric Rac for sharing her awesome designs and sewing know how)


Crocheted ballerinas (I left the finishing of these until last and I'm so glad I did - these little ones killed my hands!!)
(Thanks to Mia Zamora for sharing this wonderful design) 


With this type of reaction, of course it's worth the effort!!!


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!!!!





Monday, December 5, 2011

Last minute Advent Calendar


I was really against Advent Calendars before.  I just didn't understand how they fit in the spirit of Christmas.  


 And then, one day a thoughtful friend (thanks P!) sent me this link which made me rethink the spirit of the Advent calendar and inspired me to make not one, not two but three Advent Activity calendars  (one for Little Miss M and one each for her two cousins)!!  


 Unfortunately, I didn't get this lightbulb inspiration until the 2nd of December, which was the same day that my Baby Mac was not feeling too great.  

So, from none to three, in the space of one late evening, here are my super quick, super simple, Advent Calendars.


Want to know how to make them?  Then read on!

You'll need
- brown crafting or wrapping paper.  I got mine from Woolworths.
- ribbon tied into bows
- some Christmas stamps or stickers (something to decorate about 5 or 6 brown packets)
- a pen/texta to write the numbers (or you can stamp them if you have the stamps)
- a sewing machine (the tool that makes it super quick and super simple)
- a glue (strong enough to glue the ribbon to the packet as well as gluing paper together)
- chocolate (or your treat to put into the packet)
- an activity for each day of December leading up to Christmas (optional)

Note : this being a super quick project, there is no real accuracy required.

1.  Cut out the required number of rectangles from the brown paper measuring 15cm x 13cm.


2.  Number each paper and decorate say one in five (or more if you wish) with a Christmas sticker or stamp.


3.  For each piece of paper, roll up the shorter sides together and glue it together to make a tube.

Like decorated toilet rolls!

4.  Making sure that the number or Christmas sticker/stamp is facing you, pinch the top of the tube so that it is flat at the top only (~1cm - 1.5cm) and then fold down.  Eg - in an East to West fold across the top of the tube.  The photos below should help!

Pinch together

Fold the top down - about 1 - 1.5 cm

Notice how it is still tube shaped at the bottom

5.  Do this for all of the papers.


6.  Lay them out near your sewing machine in number order.  

Yes - that is a portable bassinet.  Perfect height!!
7.  Sew across the flat tops of the packets in one continuous line.  Leave a 1-2 cm gap in between each packet.  I sewed in reverse number order - starting from 25 down to 1.  The back of the packet was facing up.



8.  Lay out the stringed Advent Calendar on a long flat surface.  Attach the ribbon bows and place your chocolates/treats (and activities, if you're doing them) in each packet.


9.  Put some glue on the bottom of each packet and pinch the tube in a North to South line.


10.  Hang and double check that all the bottoms are securely sealed.


We hung ours on our tiny Christmas Tree.


For more fabulous ideas head on over to :
Marvelously Messy
So Very Creative
You're Talking Too Much 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pop Pop Pop

Caramel Popcorn - devil's food, I'm sure.  I am addicted to this stuff.  Once in a while, I buy that awful stuff from the supermarket and binge on it.  Sadly (or thankfully  - I don't know!!), I seem to be the only one in the family to love this stuff.  I thought I would try to make some at home.  So... 


 I made a batch on Tuesday night - one jar full plus 4 and a 1/2  brown bags full.  I gave away one bag to a neighbour.  I gave the 1/2 bag to my husband for work.  And I "shared" (as in I think I ate the lion's share of it) one bag with some friends who came over on Wednesday.   I was surfing Pinterest last night.  And on Thursday morning, I wake up and this is what I'm left with...

Before the photo shoot...


After the photo shoot (I took about 3 photos!!)...


And that's it - no more after this jar is emptied!!

On another note, I had a go at creating "art".  Art, as in something to hang and display.  What do you think?  The inspiration came from here.  I think I need to practice a bit more on painting the canvas and balancing out the proportions.  Hmm.. looking at this photo... I'm going to give it another go, I think.


Caramel popcorn

How to make the perfect popcorn  (adapted from here)...
1.  You will need a saucepan with a fitted lid; about 1/2 cup popcorn; and enough oil to coat the bottom of your saucepan.
2.  Heat the oil in the saucepan (lid on) with 2 or 3 corn kernels.
3.  When the kernels start to pop, take the saucepan off the heat, pour in the remaining corn kernels, shake around to coat the corn in oil and count off 20 seconds.
4.  Put the saucepan (with lid on) back onto the heat and wait for the popping to start.
5.  Smile joyously and shake occasionally with the lid slightly ajar as you hear the popping.
6.  When the popping slows down significantly, take it off the heat and immediately pour the popcorn into a big wide bowl.  Add your butter and/or salt at this point if eating oh-naturelle.  Otherwise continue on to the caramel part below.  

I was a popcorn virgin before.  And, I promise you, in the two times I have made it this way, there were no burnt bits of popcorn and only about 10 kernels unpopped.

Caramel popcorn
Adapted from allrecipes.com

125g butter
2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
popcorn from above.

1.  Preheat oven to about 100C.  Place popcorn in a large baking tray (largest you can get to achieve a flat layer of popcorn.  Mine was not very large so there ended up with huge chunks of caramel popcorn rather than an even spread).  Place the popcorn in the oven to keep it warm.
2.  Over medium heat, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  And then add the sugar, syrup, and salt.  Bring to the boil while stirring constantly.  (Please be VERY careful with hot sugar.)
3.  Let it boil without stirring for 4 minutes.
4.  Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.
5.  Pour the caramel mixture in a thin stream over the warmed popcorn and return the baking tray to oven.
6.  Bake the popcorn in the oven for 1 hour, stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes.
7.  Remove from oven and let it COOL COMPLETELY before breaking it into small pieces and storing...  or shoving it into your mouth by the handful.

Seriously, keep your tongue away and your children away from the caramel until it has cooled completely.  You can get seriously burnt from heated sugar/caramel.

Edited to note (shamefully), as I finish writing up this short post, this is what is left in the jar.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Amazing

Food amazes me.  Eating food amazes me.  I mean, who would have thought to pick the apple from the apple tree and bite into it?  Who would have picked out the basil plant and discovered its gloriously delicious leaves?  And who thought to pick wheat and ground it up to make flour?

And then, add to that, who would have thought of putting simple ingredients together, say like flour, butter, sugar and eggs, to create cake?  Cake - nothing like flour, nothing like butter, nothing like sugar, nothing like egg - something new created with totally different properties from the ingredients that make it up.  Food alchemy!!

Sure, we now have pound cake, cup cakes, sponge cakes, Angel Food Cake, Devil Food Cake, cakes galore, but how ingenious was that first cake?  That first cake upon which formed the basis of our cake baking... how truly genius and amazing was the creation of that first cake?

Yep - food amazed me.  And it continues to amaze me.

Simple ingredients such as Marie biscuits, coconut, cocoa powder, and that glorious invention sweetened condensed milk; mix, roll, and chill and then - Ta Da - chocolate truffles - an elixir of life in my books!


Simple ingredients such as blueberries, eggs, milk, flour, sugar, and a pinch of this and that; mix, stir, and bake and then - Ta Da - Blueberry Muffins!!


 And finally, simple ingredients such as an egg, a sperm, and a fertile womb; mix, bake and wait and then - Ta Da - greedy little hands and a greedy little mouth!!  Children also amazes me; amazes and amuses me.


What amazes you?

Chocolate Truffles

1 packet Marie Biscuits, crushed
60g soft butter
180g dessicated coconut, plus extra for dusting
1/2 cup cocoa
395g sweetened condensed milk (serious note : a little less won't matter if you need to taste it, you know, to check for quality sake)

1.  Combine the biscuits, butter, coconut and cocoa in a large bowl.  Mix well, preferably with your hands.  
2.  Slowly add the sweetened condensed milk.  Mix well and ponder on the wonders of sweetened condensed milk.
3.  Roll the mixture into balls.  Roll the balls in the extra coconut.  Refrigerate for a bit, until chilled.
4.  Bite into one and be amazed at the simplicity of the ingredients and the complexity of the taste.


Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12 big ones

2 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp custard powder (the secret ingredient)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup blueberries
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup oil
icing sugar for dusting
(optional) a husband in hot lips shorts to make it for you while you sleep.

1.  Preheat oven to 190C.  Line a muffin tray with paper liners.
2.  Sift the flour, baking powder, and custard powder into a bowl.
3.  Add the sugar and the blueberries.
4.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and oil.
5.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix delicately, until just combined.  Add a pinch o' love (the other secret ingredient).
6.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tray and bake for 15-20minutes
7.  Dust with icing sugar and eat.  Immediately.  For breakfast.  Or a midnight snack.  Appreciate the crunchy muffin top.  And leave one to enjoy later.

Sorry - I couldn't resist!



Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A little glimpse

Sometimes I find that it easy to get caught up in the chaos of life and forget to stop, breathe, and appreciate what I have.  So, I've borrowed this concept for today to show snippets of my day and the beauty in my life.  Enjoy!!













A special thanks to A Bit of Sunshine for sharing this project.  I can relate to how this project came about; and it spoke to me in a way that nothing else and no-one else has been able to.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sleep (or lack thereof)

Apparently, short people are predisposed to sleeping poorly.  It is a well known fact that tall people sleep longer (ba-da-bing).

Poor joke aside (provided by my Dear Husband and had me cracking up.  And then, after a minute of chuckling, had me asking if that was supposed to be a pun or a real fact, which, in turn had him cracking up at my gullibility).  As I was saying poor joke aside, I do sleep poorly.  Not quite an insomniac, just a bad sleeper.

And how do I remedy this, especially in the middle of the night?  I turn on my brightly lit iTouch while in bed and activate a puzzle app.  Yeah - thinking puzzles are the best way to get back to sleep.  Even better are the puzzles that time you, so that you keep trying to get a better and better time.  Nothing like those competitive juices to relax you and get you back to sleep.

Like this one - it's called latkin, but it's actually a game called KenKen.  It's like Sudoku, but it incorporates arithmetic.  Just the perfect thing to do in the middle of the night trying to get back to sleep.
Here are my top three recorded scores...  Take note : the time of day is the top number (hence the "am" or "pm" and the one underneath that is how long it took me to complete the puzzle in minutes and seconds).

 

Yes - it says "Awesome" and yes, it says 1:45am.  And look at the battery life... I used up half of it getting to this point.  And did I stop there?  Nooooo - I had to try and replicate it.  Sad that this is what I do for "fun and relaxation".  Sad that I couldn't replicate it.  Just Sad.  Sad.  Sad.

So let's look at something not so sad.  PRESENTS!!! More specifically, presents that I made and hence proving that I do not waste all of my time.


 I'm loving the kinda retro look of this one (I used an old pair of jeans) and I had a relaxing time embroidering the name onto the ball.  Quite therapeutic - hand sewing.

Happy Birthday, Ethan!

And also this set of goodies for my dear friend, Ms P.


And what's that tasseled thing, you ask?



A book weight!  I noticed that Ms P did not have a cookbook stand in her kitchen and thought this might be a nice alternative.  Twas a be-atch to make, but it came together in the end.  A big thanks to my super imaginative Dear Husband who suggested fishing sinkers to use as weights.

Happy Birthday Ms P!!  I know you love to bake and cook, so I hope you find many occasions to use your book weight (and that the sewing stays intact!).

PS.  The book weight was made using my imagination but the inspiration came from this wonderful blog.  The purses were made using the patterns from this talented designer, Nicole Mallalieu.  I have just read that Nikki will probably be closing her online retail shop (which was THE BEST source for bag and purse making supplies), so I would suggest checking it out quick before her store goes offline.

For more creative inspirations, head on over to JAQS Studio.