Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bean; Been; Bean... Bag!

You know what I think is a really cruel word... "LISP".  If you think about it from the point of view of someone that has it...

Have you ever thought about the complexity of the english language?  Hmmm...yes... try teaching your little one how to communicate in spoken english.  All I've got to say is... Thank goodness for sign language!

At the sewing machine...
Little Miss M : What are you making mama?
Mama : I'm making a bean bag for you.
Little Miss M : A bean bag?
Mama : Yeah - like the ones that you sit on in the library.
Little Miss M : Oh, ok.  It doesn't look like a bean bag.
Mama : Well, when I finish sewing it, I'm going to put in some bean bag filling.
Little Miss M : Bean bag filling?  What is bean bag filling?
Mama : The stuff that I put in the bean bag so that it becomes fluffy when you sit on it.
Little Miss M : Do you put beans in it?
Mama : Ummm... yes, I suppose you can call it that.
< A bit of silence; a bit of sewing >
Little Miss M : Mama?
Mama : Yes, baby...
Little Miss M : Mama, what does bean mean?
Mama : Huh?  It's the stuff we put in the bean bag.
Little Miss M : Yeah, but what does it mean?
Mama : "What does it mean?"  It doesn't mean anything.  It's just the name of the stuff that we put in the bean bag.
< Repeat the last two lines a few times, with (horrible) Mama getting a bit annoyed >
< And then some silence >
Little Miss M : Mama!!  I know what "bean" means!!
Mama (in distracted resignation) : And what's that, baby?
Little Miss M : It means that I've just done something!
< And now she's got my attention >
Mama : "I've just done something"?
Little Miss M (in her most adults-are-soooo-slow voice) : Yes mama.  Like "I've just been to the supermarket".  That's what "been" means.
< and she walks off rolling her eyes, and I'm sitting there, laughing aloud, but feeling like the biggest goose >

So here's my constant reminder never to take for granted how difficult it can be to learn a new language, especially the english one.  And a reminder of how clever these little ones really are.

Some nitty gritty...
- The bean bag consists of a removable outer layer for easier washing and an inner layer filled with the "beans'.
- The finished size is about 16" across and about 13" high.
- I used a 100liter bean bag filling of cheapie polystyrene.  The bean bag feels a bit full, but with the amount of jumping on it that has been happening, it will flatten out a bit so that Little Miss M and Baby Mac can "sink" into it, as it should be with bean bags.
- The pattern can be found here.  It's an easy one.
- I flat-felled all of the seams except for the opening of the outer layer and the last seam of the inner layer.
- I would consider using a zipper instead of velcro for the outer layer opening.

It's quite a satisfying project - simple project; beginner effort; big outcome and lots of fun for the kids.  The choice of materials and bean bag filling will determine how much money you end up spending.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mini Break

We took a mini vacation over the weekend - so last minute (planned on Friday afternoon) and so much fun.  Especially for Dear Husband as it was a trip down memory lane.

First priority stop - Freshwater Creek Cakes.  Aaah - the infamous "Passionfruit Sponge Cake" from years past.  I have to admit - this is a gooooood memory to have.  And now I understand my Dear Husband's obsession for it and how it is in a class of it's own.

This cake is light; it's airy; it has the right combination of sweet balanced by the creamy balanced by the most tender crumb.  It's not sugary; it's not buttery; it's not moist nor is it dry.  What it is - is perfect.  And divine.  And so, so, so delicious.

Surely it can be improved upon?  Yes - by taking a fork to it and devouring it on the pristine sands of a gorgeous beach.

Definitely one of the highlights of the weekend.

And the other highlights include...

A play on the beach even though it's too cold for a swim.

 A jump with Dad on a giant pillow.

A lighthouse.


Playgrounds with beautiful backgrounds.

And some fishing.

Oh - and some more cake!

It was a wonderful, last-minute family vacation.  When was the last time you just packed up and went?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Do you know the Muffin Man?

The Muffin Man?
Yes, the Muffin Man?  Do you know the Muffin Man that lives in my house?

Cheese and Poppy Seed Muffins
Yes - it's my Dear Husband.  Now, my Dear Husband is an accomplished cook in his own right.  Unfortunately, for some silly reason (that reason being me!), he is rarely in the kitchen.  My mind is always 10 days ahead with the meals that I'm going to cook.  I don't know why I don't "assign" any meals to my Dear Husband to cook for us.  But now that I've stated "aloud" this flaw in my personality, I think I'm going to start doing something about it.

Blueberry Muffins
Anyways - my Dear Husband does sometimes make it into the kitchen.  Lately, it's during those early morning wake up calls when he is kind enough to take the girls and give me a little bit of a sleep in.  And what does he do with the girls?  He bakes muffins for breakfast!!!  Isn't he a treasure?

Raspberry Muffins
And what's more - he makes really good muffins!

Doughnut-flavoured muffins complete with a runny jam filling
We were never really a muffin family, until I got a hold of this book - The Muffin Bible.

It was a promotional freebie.  It was sitting on our shelves until one morning I armed Little Miss M with mini post-it notes and told her and her dad to go through the book and mark out the ones they wanted to try.  I think the different flavourings and the simplicity of the recipes caught my husband's eye because, before I knew it, we had moved away from toast and cereal and the weekend pancakes and onto muffins.  And I love it!!

Cream Cheese and lemon muffins
If I had to choose my favourite - it would be a toss up between the Cream Cheese and Lemon Muffins and Raspberry Muffins.

Cream Cheese and Lemon Muffins - these are awesome and, if you reduce the sugar, they don't feel overly sweet for breakfast!
Adapted from the Muffin Bible

110g cream cheese, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups plain flour
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 egg
1/2 cup oil
1/2 milk
2/3 cup sugar (or less!)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Topping (optional but good if the lemon flavour is not really coming out)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 190C.  Grease or line your muffin pan.
2.  Mix the cream cheese with 2 tablespoons of flour and the lemon zest.  Cut the cream cheese chunks to even smaller pieces depending on your preference.  They will retain their size throughout the baking process.
3.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until just combined.
4.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin pan.
5.  Bake at 190C for 20-25min.  They will be ready when the lightly spring back when touched.
6.  (Optional)  To make the topping, mix the lemon juice and sugar and sprinkle this mix over the warm muffins.

These are great muffins to freeze.  Just wrap them up tightly.  When I'm ready to eat them, I usually warm them in the microwave for about 30secs.

Raspberry Muffins - these are not like your typical muffin mix with the raspberries thrown in.  These have a wonderfully spiced flavour.  The sweetness of the sugar is easily countered by the tartness of the raspberries.  Fresh raspberries or frozen raspberries work well.
Adapted from the Muffin Bible

2 cups plain flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar (or less!)
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil
55-60g melted butter, cooled
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

1.  Preheat over to 200C.  Grease or line your muffin pan.
2.  Mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
3.  Whisk together the sugar and eggs until light.
4.  Add to the sugar and egg mixture the vanilla, oil and butter.  Whisk again.
5.  Make a large well in the centre of the dry ingredients.  Pour the egg-sugar mixture and combine the two quickly until a batter is formed.  It will be very thick - don't worry!
6.  Gently fold in the raspberries.
7.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tray, filling them about two-thirds full.
8.  Bake at 200C for 20-22 minutes.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Little Ray of Sunshine

The hardest part of sewing, for me, is choosing fabrics.  There is so much gorgeous fabric out there and finding the right combination is agonising.  AG-ON-IS-ING!!!!!

What colour palette do I like?  What prints will go with what prints?  Are they too matchy-matchy?  Do they blend too much?  Will the pattern show on a smaller item?  Will the person like it?  Does it suit them?  Is it elegant/retro/vintage/childish/adult enough?  AAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!

And the worst part - I don't normally subscribe to pink; I don't have many clothes that are pink or furnishings that are pink or stuff that is pink but I'm always drawn to the pink palette when it come to fabrics.  Sometimes I hate my taste.

And so, it is with great pride, that I present this skirt that I made - in Yellow and Orange!  No pink in sight. And my delightful Little Miss M has named it her Sunshine skirt.  How lovely is that!

The nitty-gritty details...
This skirt was made using Oliver + S Hopscotch skirt pattern.  I am still not very comfortable with making clothes and this pattern takes you on a very detailed journey from beginning to end.  So this was a very good pattern for me.

Having said that, not only is it very detailed but there are ALOT of steps.  Why?  I think it's because this pattern is all about the finishes - once complete, only the side seams have a visible sergered/zig-zagged edge.  All the other seams are enclosed.

In the back of my mind (and not because I have asked them), I think my sisters, highly accomplished seamstresses especially in the clothing department (my younger sis made my wedding dress; my older sis could whip up a suit from thin air!!!), would think this is a very fussy pattern for a child's play skirt.  I think.

Would I make it again?  Yes, definitely.  It is a great beginner pattern; the finishes are pretty good; and there are some good techniques to take away from this pattern.  Also, using this nifty tip from the ever-talented Nicole Mallalieu, I can make this skirt in various sizes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Happy Easter

Hi y'all!!!

I hope that you've had a wonderful Easter break and are fully refreshed to take on whatever is coming your way.

We've had a real treat - Dear Husband has been home for 5 days now.  I'm not sure how I'll cope when he goes back to work.

And, we've got a couple of exciting "projects" in the works, so more of that in the next few weeks.

But for now... food!  More specifically, the feast my sister put on for family and friends on Easter Sunday.  How she did it frazzle-free, especially with attending Church in the morning, remains a mystery to me!  It was wonderful and here's a sample of what was on the menu...

Home made spring rolls and two different types of chicken nibbles - YUM!!  (And even better the next day, if you can believe that there were leftovers :) )

Gumbo - yeah, gumbo!  Big sis did an amazing job to adapt this recipe to our aussie palates and aussie grocery stores.  How many times has she lamented on not being able to find such-n-such ingredients here!

An awesome roast beef - so moist and tender.  Well-planned around Church and a temperamental oven!

Green salad and a pasta basil pesto salad (my contribution)

Malt chocolate brownie bowls (and I do use the term "brownie" quite loosely here), served with your choice of fruit, nuts, homemade chocolate sauce and ice-cream

Another of my contributions - my very reluctant Pav.  While not an epic fail, I mean it was edible, it was still a fail in my books.  I am DETERMINED to get this right!  The softly whipped cream was just right - thanks to Mr L and his groovy gadget.

There was also a Sour Cream Pound cake on offer and some lovely decadent chocolate cupcakes.  And, add to this mix, a lovely bunch of families with some of the best behaved kids playing wonderfully together - it was a memorable Easter Sunday.

Thanks sis and M for hosting and all of the scrumptious food!
Shout out to B, L and T - it was lovely to meet you.  Cinnamon pull-apart will be coming your way soon!
Hiya to L, P, C and E - long time; no see.  But save for the addition to your family, you guys have not changed one bit.  I love it.
To my Dear Husband - Happy Easter, my love!  Thanks for taking over baby-sitting duties on the day.
And finally - Little Miss M and Baby Mac - you guys make my heart swell with pride and joy everyday, but especially on Sunday - it was such a long and exciting day and you guys coped way better than your hopeless mom!  Love you!

Happy Easter, everyone!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Back from my hiatus

Have you ever struggled with your identity?  Like how you define yourself; how you think of yourself?  I do.  I have been.  I still am.

Rather than simply stating "I am Ag May", I need to add labels.  I'm a mother.  I work but I'm on leave at the moment.  I'm a crafter, but I just make things not really create things.  I bake.  I cook.  And right now, I'm confused.

I wonder if the lack of varied adult interaction has made me lose sight of how I define myself.  My wardrobe is probably a good metaphor... I've cleaned it out.  So now I'm left with 2 pairs of jeans; a pair of light coloured pants; a pair of tracksuit pants; a handful of t-shirts; and a handful of dresses.  Add to that a few jumpers and a couple of cardigans and that's my wardrobe.  No more "smart casual"; no more "office-wear"; no more "formal wear" or "going-out on the town wear".  I think I donated my personality to good will alongside my clothes!!!

On that note, I'm over the introspection for now.  Hang about, if you want, but I can't promise smooth sailing.  Sometimes I'll be brief and succinct; sometimes I'll have blogging diarrhoea.  But it's me, so I hope that's enough to keep you reading on :)

So come with me and I'll show you what I've been up to lately (because it sure hasn't been blogging, has it?!?)

I'll start with the crafting for now, because there's been a few food posts of late...

First off the ranks, my gift to my dear friend across the oceans.  A few Cherry Ripes to round off the package.

The patterns are my usual go-tos, Nicole Mallalieu purses.  The fact that I (yes me!) can make these gorgeous things never ceases to amaze me.  Not that I think FIGJAM, but Nikki's patterns are written in such a way that even a beginner sewer can achieve a designer look with professional finishes.  And you get to personalise it with your fabric choices so that no two purses need look alike.  And I love the size of the framed purse - it fits nicely in the palm of your hand when you're just popping out for a coffee and need only shrapnel.

Happy Birthday Dear F!!!  Missing you muchly from across the waves.