Wednesday, April 24, 2013


While looking up my Ravelry notes for Violet's Analu, I realized that I had started this project way back in January. (Isn't this year just flying by?) I'd even made a few things in between. I can't really recall the delay, only guessing that with my printer being out of order I had had to hand write the instructions as I reached each stage. But not to worry, we got there in the end, and Violet has a snuggly little short sleeved cardi for Autumn.

Our Analu only has three buttons. I would like to say it was a conscious choice to not button up the whole way, but I actually forgot to add the buttonholes after the third one. So instead of unravelling, I just went with it. The bottom ribbing is also a little shorter because I had completely used up my two balls of wool. But really, I was just happy that it did stretch as far as it did. Such is often the story when you are using stashed yarn, and I've had this colour sitting there for quite some time.

I rather liked this pattern, and I'm thinking a bigger version for Julia might be on the cards. Some of you might like to know that it also comes in an adult size. Size wise it knitted up a little big, but I think this was because of my looser knitting style and not due to the pattern. I used circular needles for mine and apart from the many stitches on hold, and quite a few increases, it was a pretty easy project. Just the thing for curling up on the lounge at night once the kids were in bed, watching Downton Abbey or Parenthood, to name a few, which was pretty much the only time that I had to knit. My favourite way to multi-task.

Have you been knitting lately?
Any interesting patterns that you've discovered?
(I always love to hear your recommendations)

Ravelry details here

Monday, April 22, 2013

garden + wood

As I look outside I see mist on the mountains. The mornings are beginning to get that chill and so I am in double layers and my favourite ugg boots. Autumn seems to well and truly have arrived in our parts, although it had a few false starts this season. We had some rain over the the past week. Much needed rain. The poplars have turned a brilliant shade of yellow.

We spent most of the weekend out in the garden again. I moved some self-seeded seedlings around, pulled out a few weeds and admired how well everything was growing. Which is not something I've been able to say much in the past year. Fingers crossed, but it looks like rocket, kale, silverbeet, broccoli, radish and mustard salad will be the mainstays of our winter garden.

We lit the fire for the first time on Friday night. Daniel has been busy lately carting wood, which he seems to prefer to do with friends, preferably manly flannel wearing ones. He found an old tank at the local tip, and so we now have some handy storage, closer to the house, for all that wood.  One of the good things about wood is that it is free, as long as we source it off one of our relative's properties. One of the local sayings around here is "there is wood and there is wood". You want the good sort that burns really well. Preferably a tree that has dried out over several seasons (since we are never organized enough to start our wood pile in Spring). This year we found such a tree and so I look forward to a season of easy to start fires, because I have used the other type of wood many times before, and it is not fun on a cold evening to try lighting a fire that does not want to be lit. We reluctantly purchased a brand new chainsaw this year, and Daniel opted for a big Stihl model with a reliable reputation, but eventually it will pay for itself in savings.

So how was your weekend?
Did you feel a change in seasons too?
Did you manage to get out into the garden?
Do you heat with wood too?

Friday, April 19, 2013

foraging fruit

It can be good to get away, just by yourself, if only for fifteen minutes, and if even just across the road. So I left a sleeping and playing child (while still knowing I was within earshot), grabbed a basket and headed down to the neighbour's house that has sadly been empty for the past two years. I disturbed a flock of Rosellas happily feasting on an apple laden tree. Though there weren't terribly many left I managed to fill half a basket of juicy Granny Smiths.  It was nice to have just those few minutes of apple picking to myself. I've similarly foraged off many trees in the village. From empty houses, street trees or generous neighbours. Sometimes the odd apple tree in the middle of nowhere (which seem to be the most pest resistant of all). There are often other options out there than buying all your fruit, if you just keep your eye out.

While we were on holidays we had a picnic in a remote valley. It was strangely filled with old European trees, so must have been a home to somebody once long ago. There was a majestic old tree with fallen nuts everywhere. I suspected they were walnuts and Google tells me that they were. I am still kicking myself that I did not fill up a few bags. Such trees are a rare thing, and I would like to go back there one day. With lots of bags.

So while we wait for our own fruit trees to grow and make fruit, we still get to enjoy a little  home grown goodness. Incidentally our own walnut tree is a huge 30cm high, so it may be the next generation enjoying that one.

Do you forage?
Or do you have access to fresh fruit, if not your own, perhaps friend's, neighbour's or family's trees?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

a tidy kitchen

I was recently asked by my brother in law (who built our now three year old kitchen) to snap a few photos for his joinery business. Our kitchen is rarely spotless, with three kids in the house, there is always something going on in there. You clean, and they get something else out. There are always assorted jars fermenting, dishes out and things on the stove. You know how it goes. So when I took these pictures I gave everything a good clean, added some flowers and snapped away. Although you've seen my kitchen before, I'm not sure if I've shown it in it's entirety. So here it is in a (rare) very tidy state. (Just don't mind the sheet still hanging in the window!)

Edited to add : For more on our house and how it came into being, check out this old post, our house.

Monday, April 15, 2013

school holidaying

From where I sit I can see two overflowing baskets of washing to fold and put away. I'm reluctantly drinking instant coffee because I forgot to buy the good stuff. I've had two boys return from their sleepover down the road, and trying their best to to eat me out of house and home. It seems my food is not quite to their standard. The house is a mess and there is already some disagreements. The smallest is refusing breakfast and zooming around on her bike, Fred Flintstone style. I slept in for the first time in a long time. It seems though, that the longer you sleep the more chaotic things get out there. But despite all that, I am looking forward to the next two weeks. I know I will enjoy the four of us being together. I know I will get to enjoy the occasional sleep in, as well as the occasional outing. We will enjoy not having to be anywhere or do anything if we don't want to.

Welcome to the school holidays.

Do you have school holiday plans?
Any interesting outings planned?
Or do you all prefer to stay home?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

the follow up food post

Remember the last time we talked about food? It was a couple of months ago now, in this post. But I remember being blown away by the comments, and fascinated by the different and sometimes similar approaches that you were taking. There was certainly a lot of food for thought in those comments (pun not intended). Also some great videos recommended there within the comments that are worth checking out. It is a subject that is close to my heart and one I feel very passionately about, as food is our life force with the ability to both damage and heal. The more I have read and learnt, I have found the more there really is to learn.

So you might be wondering if we have stuck to our "primal" way of eating. That is, using traditional foods, good saturated and monounsaturated fats (butter, coconut, lard and olive oil), local grass fed, ethically produced meats, home grown and organic vegetables and fruit (where possible) and good quality dairy. Grains and legumes are supposed to be limited and when eaten they are generally soaked overnight to get rid of the toxins, as traditional societies have always done in years past. All while avoiding sugar, white flour and vegetable oil.

Within the past few months we have changed drastically the way are eating. I began the "diet" myself, and felt so good after a few weeks (beware the sugar and wheat withdrawls though) of eating differently. Especially difficult was cutting out bread and any flour products, but after those first few weeks I found I had plenty of energy, my weight returned to it's pre-baby size, my skin was clearer, I stopped getting the 11 o'clock and 4 o'clock shaking (when my blood sugar must have been dropping) and I actually felt a lot happier within myself. It seemed my previously "good" diet was contributing to so many minor issues. Of course one day these minor issues can turn into something bigger.

While on holidays I read Wheat Belly. This book focuses on wheat as being the biggest source of our health problems since the 1950's. Apparently the wheat we eat now is not the wheat that our ancestors ate, but a hybrid variety with far too much gluten. Hence when we eat this bread, even an organic or wholegrain loaf, it is like getting a huge sugar hit. Which over time, does very bad things to the digestive system. It has been linked to many modern day diseases.

So I read much of this to Daniel, a die-hard pasta and bread fan. To my surprise he agreed to give it a go. Over the next few weeks, he felt constantly sleepy, achy, headaches and then a burning pain in the stomach. But he stuck to the way of eating, and through research, I began adding fermented saurkraut, kefir and apple cider vinegar (with the "mother") to our diet. A few days later the symptoms had disappeared. He says he has more energy, feels more calm and he has lost some weight. For the first time in years looks like he did when I first met him.

The kids are still eating bread, but I try to give them a good quality rye sourdough (which I am yet to learn to make at home) as they just love bread. I don't buy any sort of processed snack food or cereal anymore, so this is the compromise we make. Yes, we've had many heated discussions over food at home, as they want the homemade cake, bought muesli bars and biscuits that all the other kids are having. It is a difficult challenge, but we are getting there. Now they have a buttered rye sandwich for lunch with a filling (cheese, tomato, nut butter, tuna, salmon etc). Recess is often cheese sliced (usually Nimbin cheese or a mild camembert), nuts, homemade yoghurt or homemade popcorn. They seem to be getting used to the changes. In the afternoon I might give them a simple vegetable soup (one batch lasts several days) with rye bread and butter.

Breakfast now usually means eggs, fried or scrambled, sometimes with bacon rashers, but often with avocado or tomato. About once a week we have porridge with oats (soaked overnight) and served with lots of cream and a little maple syrup. Sometimes I make Sarah Wilson's Granola (her website is a good source of information and recipes).

We've stopped being scared of good fat, seeing it as an ideal fuel source, and a little goes a long way. So now we snack on nuts (often activated using this method), good quality cheese (cheese saved both of us during the early days of bread cravings), olives or yoghurt. We still drink coffee, often adding a spoonful of coconut oil or cream as well as full cream milk.

Lunch is often a salad with cheese, nuts, ham or tuna added, leftovers from the night before or cooked vegetables with melted cheese.

Dinner is usually a moderate portion of meat with lots of different vegetable dishes or salads. It's not really very different to usual, but I no longer fall back on pasta and bread to bulk up a meal. If we have dessert it is cream with nuts or fruit and a little maple syrup or honey.

It has taken a lot of adjusting, but the benefits have been well worth it. The thing is you don't eat less, but you do feel full sooner, because it is the wheat and sugar that switch off the "full" switch that we naturally have. I actually feel 10 years younger, when I thought that my loss of energy was the inevitable consequences of aging.

My own parents, who always ate bread with every meal, have also begun adopting this way of eating. They struggled at first, but the weight has begun dropping and my mum (diagnosed with early advanced osteo-arthritis) is finding her condition actually reversing. She is enthusiastically telling everyone she knows!

Some books you might like to take a look at:

Primal Body Primal Mind :  Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life 
A comprehensive explanation of what our distant ancestors ate and why that is what our bodies are designed for. Also how to avoid degenerative diseases by changing our diet.

Nourishing Traditions :The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.
This is my food bible. As well as the thorough information on what to eat and what to avoid based on the studies of Weston Price, Sally Fallon provides excellent recipes and methods of how to prepare food correctly.

Wheat Belly : Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find your Path Back to Health 
Looks at what is wrong with our modern wheat and the many benefits in avoiding it.

Coconut Oil Miracle
 A look at the many wonderful health benefits of an oil that has been avoided for so long.

Sweet Poison : Why Sugar is Making us Fat. 
What sugar is doing to our bodies.

I Quite Sugar : The Complete Plan and Recipe Book
Sarah Wilson's inspirational story on why she gave up sugar as well as how to quit. Lots of good, simple recipes.

Big Fat Lies
The dangers in highly processed vegetable, canola and seeds oils (which is virtually in all processed food).

Wild Fermentation : The Flavour, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods
Simple fermentation recipes and why our bodies need fermented foods daily.

I am certainly no nutritionist, and I believe everyone must make up their own minds how they wish to eat. But I am happy to relate my own and my families own experience, in the hope that it may help somebody else out there. I know that every body and every family is different. What may work for some may not work for others. I do encourage you all, though, to do your own research, don't accept what you are told at face value, ask questions and find what works for you and your family.

I would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences on this.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

works in progress

I used to only tackle the projects I could start and finish in one day. I guess I had a kind of fear, that once tossed into the sewing basket, the said project would be forgotten and abandoned. Destined to sit in the unfinished pile forever. That was, until I started knitting. It is a very rare project that will only take a day or two, as most require a more dedicated commitment. You are in it for the long haul. Sometimes a week, sometimes months and occasionally years (!). But each and every time you pick that project up you are taking it one step closer to being finished. Slowly, slowly, as my mother in law likes to say.

And so I don't feel the need to rush those sewing projects anymore either. I know that I will most likely come back to a project, even if the time isn't right for many days or weeks. All in good time.

So I thought you might like a peek at what I'm working on right now, or, rather, what is cluttering up the spare room so I can't even think about starting a new project.

I started this quilt for Julia way back here, and progress has been very, very slow. Being a beginner quilter, I have following the steps closely from Practical Guide to Patchwork, which has many beautiful quilts to make. I chose the Valentine quilt. Unfortunately I made the mistake of forgetting that the middle piece had to be a neutral fabric to highlight the different colour groups of the squares. So this square has to go. The method used is to sew onto a square of paper cut to size, both for stability and easy cutting. You simply tear it off after cutting. I will keep you posted on the (slow) progress.

Secondly, is a collection of shopping bags that I have only drawn up a pattern for at this stage. I swear there is a void in this house that sucks up green bags, because I always seem to lose them. The pattern is based upon, you guessed it, the dimensions of the beautiful (not) green bag. I am hoping to use a sturdy outer fabric and line it with sheeting.

Third and final project on the list is the knitted Analu for Violet. Being up to the sleeves (I am making the short sleeved version), it is a little hard to just pick up where you left off. Lot's of casting off at this stage and leaving stitches on whatever I happen to have handy at the time (nappy pins!). I really must sit down today and get past this stage.

I also wanted to say thank you everyone for your lovely, encouraging words on this post, which has happily forced me to pull these projects out of temporary hiding.

So what are you working on right now?
Any long term projects or stuck in the works projects?
Or are you a short term project person?

Monday, April 8, 2013

cottage gardening

Hello there! How was your weekend? Hopefully you had some pleasant mild weather, as we did. Perhaps you also had a chance to get out in the garden. I had an enjoyable kind of slowish day pottering around the garden yesterday (also thanks to the finish of daylight saving). Thankfully most of the weeding has been done, so we watered and planted a few new shrubs and groundcovers.

My little cottage style garden out the front is slowly coming to fruition. I love the slightly messy, mingling, romantic feel of a cottage garden. If you remember this, then this, is what we started with a few years ago now. Progress has been slow, with other parts of the garden often needing more attention and money spent. There is still many gaps to fill in and plants to mature. But I think it is more fun to add bits and pieces as you go along. I try to divide bought potted plants where possible to make them stretch a little further, as well as dividing the ones doing well along the way. Or from plants in friends or families yards. It helps fill up the garden for a little less.

Daniel's pergola turned out beautifully, and the next step is to add some beds to the side (I've been promised nice wide ones) , a grapevine, some paving and perhaps some side seats. Hopefully one day it will be a pleasant little space to curl up with a book.

My little front garden may not be practical like my vegie garden, but I think that it brings me (and hopefully others) just as much joy. Flowers, cut for vases or intermingling together in the garden, with their constant colour and change, tend to make me a happier person.

Do you enjoy a non-practical garden too?

Friday, April 5, 2013

on motivation

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with a landscape painter. On discussing his projects, he said that he often needed a deadline to pick up that paintbrush and get painting. Often we like to think of anything involving creativity being a kind of organic process, not something relying on deadlines or something that we need to force ourselves to do. Our creations may not have the scope of an oil painting. It might be a dishcloth we are knitting, a dress we are sewing or a garden bed we are creating. But is there really a "right" moment to start a creative project?

I've often thought of this blog as a little creative outlet. It may not be a fancy one, with its homemade header and sometimes blurry photos. My computer skills may be limited, but it is like having my own little corner of the internet. Surprisingly, many of you do come back often to visit. Your comments are a little ray of sunshine in my day for which I am very grateful. I don't doubt that at many times your comments have given me the motivation to try new projects, and also to finish them.

To be honest, some days I don't really feel like writing. Or knitting. Or sewing. Or even reading. There are times when all I feel like doing is a little mindless Pinterest searching. But I do know that tomorrow I probably will feel like it. The mind can be a fickle thing. So sometimes I push myself to start that new knitting project. Or write that blog post. Because I know the enthusiasm will return, sometimes within minutes of starting. At times it may seem like we are doing it for others, but I know the sense of satisfaction that comes from within when I've made something myself. I believe it is something we owe to ourselves. To do something creatively every day. Even if it's only ten minutes.

So thank you, readers, for sometimes being that kick in the pants I need to motivate myself.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

the summer wardrobe wrap-up

There were a few summer sewing projects that I didn't quite get around to blogging about. But before we are plunged into the depths of winter and any summer clothing talk seems quite silly, I thought I would show you them today.

First up is a Wiksten tank, which is available in paper or pdf format. I'd made this way back in December, and it has already made a little appearance (you can just see it here) on the blog. Using another cotton voile from Darn Cheap fabrics, this has to be one of the quickest and easiest tops I have made to date. The inner bias binding left a little to be desired, but I think I know where I went wrong for next time. I made the medium and it has a comfortable loose fit without being too big. I have worn this to death over the summer, and it is definitely a pattern I will be making multiples of later in the year. It is one of those simple patterns where they got the cut just right.

Made just before our camping trip is this Built by Wendy pattern 3692, now out of print, but these patterns seem to still be quite popular (particularly the elusive 3835 ). I picked my pattern up fairly cheaply on Etsy, but they also come up on ebay. This came together all too easily, perhaps helped by the fact that this knit fabric had a slight thickness and stability to it. A very good thing for someone with next to no experience with knit fabric. I cut a good couple of inches off the hem length. This little dress, made especially for the wash and wear of the  camping trip proved to be very handy with no ironing required and so comfortable for travelling.

The last project, another December one, was simple pencil skirt, using the same pattern as my red one. This time I made it a little shorter and more summery with an inexpensive bright quilting cotton from our local sewing shop. I've worn it many times with sandals and a tucked in t-shirt.

Sadly, I have not dusted off the sewing machine since before our trip, but I hope to have a flick through my patterns soon and find a few Autumn projects to get into. Perhaps the coming school holidays will be the perfect opportunity. I am thinking of a Wiksten Tova or perhaps a heavier schoolhouse tunic.

Do you have sewing plans for the new season?
What patterns do you have your eye on?

Other summer projects :   
Dress H
The Washi Dress
The Alma blouse

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

new old

I don't know about you but my Easter long weekend went by in a quick blur. A pleasant blur though, dotted with family and good food, and perhaps one too many Easter eggs.  Unfortunately I discovered the camera was flat when I went to use it (always the way, isn't it?), but I think this can be a good thing sometimes.

In the absence of any Easter-ish photos, here are few little op shopped additions to the house recently. How could I resist the "Food Should be cooked with Butter and Love" plate?  It's always nice to rearrange a few things at the start of each season. Add a flower from the garden, swap things around or make room for the odd little treasure. Sometimes the long to do list to list of projects can be a little overwhelming, with curtain rods to hang, a pergola to pave and new garden beds to dig. But little changes keep the home interesting and a little more happy in the meanwhile.

Wishing you all a pleasant rest of the week. Though I have to say it is strange to have the kids back at school so soon. The holidays will not be rolling around for a few weeks yet.