Wednesday 26 June 2013

slow as a wet week

wet weekwet weekwet weekwet weekwet weekwet week

Its been raining for a week now which meant a long slow weekend tucked up indoors doing nothing much. I enjoyed that, very indulgent. Its been cold too, but its about time for that really, we've had an unseasonally warm autumn and start to winter.

I am on the sixth week of my 5:2 fast, only one day of fasting to go. It will be the last for a while, I've been struggling with it the last few times and it will be nice to have a break. Actually I've found the thing I miss most is unlimited cups of tea! While we've only lost a few kilos each, it has been noticeable around our middles which is great, we're happy about that. We look a little slimmer and feel a lot healthier. The big gain is the way it's made us think about what we eat, we now unconsciously choose the healthier alternatives even on non fast days. Our portion sizes are down, we don't snack as much in between meals and we are eating less meat. Win, win, win.

I wanted to share this recipe for prawn curry with you that I discovered while on the fast. Its quick and easy and tastes delicious, not like diet food at all, indeed I had to doublecheck the calories myself to be sure I wasn't going over. It will definitely go into rotation around here. Delicious! I'm getting more confident lately about cooking curries from scratch, do any of you have any curries that you make regularly, I'd love some new recipes.

Last Wednesday saw a break in the clouds and I attended my last primary school Athletics Carnival! I feel a bit sad at each school event knowing it will be my last at the school we've been at for 11 years. The end of an era! It was most noticeable at the Expo day when Master D spoke about his years at the school, while welcoming the new kindergarten kids for next year!

Oh, and you remember I was dithering about my new Blog Reader choice post Google Reader. Well I'm happy to say I've made the switch... to FEEDLY! Thanks for everyone who put in a vote for this reader, its great. My one big quibble was with the way they didn't display the blog list to the side, but this seems to be fixed, so I'm happy.

I would love it if you wanted to join me on Feedly, or Bloglovin' or whichever new reader you've chosen. I've put buttons up there on the right to make it easier to follow. I'm a bit worried that many readers will be lost to blogs when Google Reader turns off next week. For me none of the other social media give me the depth of communication I'm after so I'll still be reading blogs. What about you? Have you made the switch?

p.s. the cooking photo is a chicken thyme cacciatore thingamebob, I love winter casseroles don't you! And in front is a tray of Kate's fruit leather recipe made by master J and eaten in less than a day! The last photo shows my new printed cards from origrami.

Friday 21 June 2013

my creative space - hottie two

hottiehottieshottiehottieshottie hottiehottieshottiehotties

It was the perfect weather this week to be working on my entry into the Open Drawer Hottie Cover Challenge Exhibition - it was freezing! It was also the final week before the Friday deadline which helped get me focussed, nothing like a deadline to spark your creativity!

I'm part of Cam's group entry again this year, the exhibition raises money and attention for the Margaret Pratt Foundation which supports lung and heart transplant patients, a cause I'm delighted to support again. (2011's entry is here in case you missed it.)

The idea of a hottie fabric design came to mind, and I thought I could make my hot water bottle cover from that. Teaching my stamp carving course has been inspiring me recently to get out the lino tools and make some new stamps. This craft is so versatile and simple, and it was a great way to make a multicolour print quickly and simply and cheaply. (If you're interested in learning this craft I have some more workshops coming up, check the SewMakeCreate site for dates.)

Here's the design I came up with. I'm in love with this repeat and it will definitely become a digital design so I can order some yardage for pajama pants! How cool would that be?! In the meantime I whipped up a pillowcase for my bed with a hottie repeat panel on the front. Something to make these chilly nights a little warmer.

The front is lined with cotton and the back is made with my Harlequin stencil print from way back here. It has an opening to slip the hottie in and an opening at the top to access the lid. I'm feeling quite smug that the pattern matches up on the back there. Actually though a hottie cover is a simple and rewarding sew. I might need to make some more.

If you want to see the rest of the amazing hottie covers, check the Flickr group or the instagram hashtag #hottiechallenge2013. And some of the hotties will be for sale either at the exhibition or afterwards. And its all for a great cause. I just wish I was close enough to be at Opening Night.

Joining in this week, after a long absence, with My Creative Space.

Thursday 13 June 2013

replacing Google Reader

google reader



the old reader

g2 reader


I have been dragging my feet when it comes to choosing an alternative to the soon to disappear Google Reader. In fact every time I see one of those pop up messages warning of Google Reader's approaching demise I start to panic. Google Reader has been part of my routine since I swapped across from Bloglines years ago. I use it most days and can't imagine using anything else.

Anyway over the last couple of months I have been seriously looking for a new Blog Reader, trying out the alternatives and seeing how they feel. Here's a rundown in case you're looking too. I think I've chosen one, though when I went back to take screen shots I saw that most of the readers have improved their useability and added new features, so I'm a bit torn now!

The good news is that there are lots of wonderful alternatives being developed. The end of Google Reader is no longer something to fear and there are some great choices to be had. 

Here are the alternatives I've tried:

One of the first I tried bloglovin' is a nicely graphic reader but I'm not sure I like the difference between this and google reader, in that it sends you across to each blog in turn. I have lots of blogs in my reader and I like to see them listed in one place so I can see which ones are updated and if I'm in a hurry just read a chosen few. I do like seeing each blog on its page where its meant to be viewed though, hmmm. If you are a bloglovin convert you can subscribe to flowerpress here.

Feedly has the best graphic interface in my opinion. I found it a little more confusing to use, but to be fair I haven't spent much time exploring. I'm a bit stuck in my ways though and while I understand its very customisable I just want a new reader that's easy to use and comes in the form I'm used to.

the old reader
Looking for a simpler more familiar replacement led me to this no frills google reader clone. It took quite a few days to upload my subscriptions and  I haven't used it much but it seems like a very basic and familiar way of reading blogs. I don't like how the text runs the full page though and centred pics default to range left, and I'm not keen on the green, but it seems serviceable.

Another reader that's similar to google reader is g2reader. It is prettier, more graphic and has more features than google reader or the old reader. I really liked this reader and it is one of two at the top of my list of alternatives. I like its looks and the way it displays the feed and centres pics. One drawback is that the line lengths are too long like the old reader, but this application is still in Beta so I'm going to keep an eye on where they go with it.

This is my current favourite. I love the functionality of this one, you can add other widgets to your feed like weather, google analytics and facebook. I've only recently discovered it so haven't had much time to play around with it but I found it quick to get used to and it has lots of features and ways of customising the views. Sadly the pics don't centre and the line length is longer than google reader but its a bit shorter than the old reader and g2.

Edited to add: Hmm, playing around with Bloglines and there are some glitches appearing. It wants to log me out every time I try to navigate around. And also my blogs are listed in two alphabetical lists, with no way of working out how to combine them in one. They don't seem to have any backup to help fix this, so while I'll keep watching, maybe G2 is a better alternative.

Its a relief to find such functional reader replacements. I'd be really interested in everyone's feedback and I'd love to know which one you're changing to or have already switched.

I probably won't truly change until the last minute, July 1st, but at least now I feel happy about where I'm going!

Monday 10 June 2013

guardian angels

knitMy creationknitMy creationknitknitfree ravelry patterns
One of the things I love about craft bloggers is their generosity. There is so much time and thought put into a handmade item that it can't help but be personal. And whenever there is a cause or a need, I've noticed crafters can be counted on to be there to help.

Which is why I am so happy to pass on information about this drive by Guardian pharmacies for their Guardian Angels Knitting Program. They are aiming to collect knitted and crocheted items to donate to those in need this winter again. I hadn't heard of this inititiative before but in fact this year marks the 15th year of the program and over that time they have donated handmade garments to over two million children! I have donated before to Wrap with Love and this seems an equally wonderful cause.

This year the charity is partnering Save the Children Australia, the nation's leading independent and emergency relief and development organisation for children. Personally I'm a big fan of child focussed charity efforts and I love that this is such a personal one, where you can actually warm and comfort a child directly with your handiwork.

Guardian have produced a knit and crochet pattern pamphlet in association with their sponsor Spotlight which is available for download on their site. They have also given me some yarn to giveaway. I have two big 100 gram balls of Marvel acrylic 8 ply, one in red and one blue, and some size 4 Birch knitting needles for one person. I think these would make a good beginner's kit for an aspiring knitter. To enter just tell me in the comments your favourite knitting pattern for kids or if you are a newbie knitter your best project so far. My big achievement is a cardigan, knitted this time two years ago and my favourite kids project  is a cabled hat I made for a new little baby a few years ago. Both are on my ravelry page if you're interested.

You don't have to make something from the Guardian pamphlet patterns, but there are some really cute designs included as you can see from the pics above. To help inspire you I've also had a quick look through Ravelry too, for free and simple patterns for small people. Ravelry is such a wonderful site, its a great resource for advice and inspiration in the yarny arts so if you aren't part of it, think about joining now.

I just love that image of the little girl in the supermarket trolley, and even more because it reminds me of a tiny little person who arrived the other day at the Berkelouw Barn when we were having lunch. She had a similar elfy hatted cape in bright red, hand knitted with little matching socks, and all the girls at my table swooned when we saw her!

So go, be knitty and crochety, and donate your handmade project through your nearest Guardian pharmacy before August 31st. There is a store locator on their site. Oh and this week is World Wide Knit in Public Day, so you'll be in good company :-)

Ravelry links from above:
pembroke vestlittle scallops hat
mossy knitchubby cat hat
landree's hooded cape 
basic winter hatbaby sophisticate cardi

Thursday 6 June 2013

5:2 diet

5:2 diet5:2 diet

I'm not one for a diet, in fact I've never followed one (although vegetarian for many years) and not because I don't put on weight! When I'm feeling heavy and don't like what I see in the mirror, or if my jeans get tight, I try and eat more sensibly, steer clear of baking, try to portion control and move more. Its not always successful but I've managed to keep my weight pretty steady for a few years now.

In the last six months though my weight jumped a few kilos and settled. I tried my usual methods of abstaining from tempting treats, I tried to eat a bit less and exercise more. But those new kilos seemed here to stay and I did not like them.

I've watched recently as bloggers have given up sugar, wheat, gluten, carbs and meat. But if you've read this blog for any time you know I love all those things! The idea of giving up even one for any length of time wouldn't work for me. I wanted something more sustainable that would fit into my current life and diet. I wanted my cake and to eat it too!

Recently I read about the 5:2 diet plan. A local columnist mentioned he was trying it. He didn't seem like a fad dieter so I was intrigued. What I discovered was this BBC video 'Eat, Fast and Live Longer' which outlines the ideas behind this way of eating. The diet is actually about more than weight loss, its about lowering markers in the body that lead to aging, cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Its about taking the idea of lowered calorie intake for longevity and health and making it more doable. Its about intermittent fasting.

Stop reading now if you aren't interested, aren't a fan of diets or hate fads! I completely understand. For those of you who are interested though, here is how it works.

For two days a week (Monday and Thursday for us) you limit your calorie intake to 500 calories (2092kJ) for girls and 600 (2510kJ) for boys. That's it. The other five you go about your business as usual.

Today is the second day of week 3 for me and Mr F. Its our sixth day of 'fasting'. We're feeling quite proud of ourselves for getting this far. We plan to get to six weeks and see how we feel. I think it has helped a lot that both of us are doing it - we can support eachother and eat the same meals. Except for those conversations we sometimes have about how hungry we are and what we would like to eat!! We have managed to work it so far that the kids are eating the same dinners as us too, though they eat theirs with rice, noodles, bread and/or pasta, so it doesn't entail too much fiddling. We are getting used to it.

I have lost a little weight, the scales have shifted (actually we need some new scales because our cheapy Ikea ones are hopeless!). But the diet is also about using up fat stores, particularly unhealthy fat, and I am feeling a little slimmer round the middle which is where I gain weight. I feel healthier, I feel virtuous, and I feel like I have more control of my diet. Two days of watching closely what I eat, abstaining from meat, alcohol and dairy leave me lighter and clearer somehow. I'm loving eating more vegetables and drinking more water and having two alcohol free nights. I also like the idea of being more conscious of my consumption and doing good things for my brain and my health.

And the best thing? That weekend I just went away for, where I ate cheese and chocolate and pasta and bread, where I drank g+ts and white wine and champagne. That's fine. Fasting for two days means on the other 5 you can eat what you want. Hurrah! Although we have found ourselves eating less, considering it more and cutting back on things, I know we can splurge when we want without ruining our diet. Knowing that you have free rein the next day makes the fast day much easier too.

There are a couple of resources I've found that have helped me. I downloaded the Easy Diet Diary onto my iphone. Its an Australian calorie counter that has a barcode reader for many local products. Never one to count calories I have had a real education in where those suckers lurk. There are a quite a few online recipe resources too, like Lavender & Lovage, by an English food writer which has some really yummy looking 5:2 recipes with the calories worked out for you. Instagram has some good ideas tagged with 52diet or fastdiet too.

We are spreading our calories over breakfast and dinner. So far, for me, breakfast is usually about ten am, a poached egg on unbuttered toast with half a microwaved tomato, some salt, pepper and worcestershire sauce, accompanied by a cup of tea.

During the day I have nothing more than a couple more teas and lots of soda water with lime. This is the hardest stretch of the day. I have cups of tea at 1 and 5 which gives me something to look forward to. Dinner is always very welcome when it arrives!

Dinner has been, in order, Minestrone; Vegetable Curry with Cauliflower 'rice'; Tomato, Eggplant, Zucchini and Olive Pasta Sauce with steamed zucchini 'fettucine' and green cabbage 'tagliatelle'; Vegie Stir Fry with cauliflower 'rice'; Green Curry Vegetables (using our favourite Marion sauce) with zucchini 'noodles'.

Please excuse the photos, I'm not a food photographer and these are really just taken as a record. As you can see though they were all delicious, filling and packed with fabulous fresh vegetables. They were also all about 200 calories.

Tonight, I'm not sure yet what we'll have. Ideas are very welcome. There will be vegetables, or maybe this Prawn curry or some fish. I need to buy a 5:2 recipe book soon!

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Doily panels

doily fabricdoily fabricdoily fabricdoily fabricdoilydoily pencil casedoily fabricdoily fabric

My Butterfly Doily image is another favourite of mine. I've printed this design on cushions and tea towels in the past, but always dreamed of taking it further and making a doily fabric repeat pattern. I can't exactly put my finger on what appeals to me so much about doilies, but I do know that they make me happy! I think its something to do with the intricate patterns and the traditional handcrafted nature of the craft. Some slow, handmade love to be passed down the generations.

So this newest printing takes the doily image a little further. I think this pattern is a work in progress, but for the moment I have printed up some panels of the doily design to sew with and made some extras to share with like-minded crafters. They are in the shop if you need some Doily sewing goodness. This is the first of my sun exposed screens!!

Each doily panel is a minimum size of 11 x 14 inches printed in white on lovely unbleached linen/cotton fabric. I have plans for other colours. This fabric is a great medium weight perfect for homewares, and small projects.

I spoke last week about my search for zipper feet, this pencil case project was the one in question which couldn't be completed without the elusive equipment! For many years I've had this serviceable tartan pencil case, which because of its size has proven really useful and taken care of my extensive pen and pencil collection (I have a habit!). As you can see it is starting to fall apart, but beyond that I felt that something I used so often should be beautiful rather than just serviceable, and it was a great way to showcase my new fabric.

As you can see I've echoed the curved corners of the old case and made it a similar size. I've used my chrysanthemums on the reverse side, and lined it with a little blue and white floral print.

There is just one flaw in my grand plan, the newly made case was quickly seconded to necklace duty for my recent trip, and is actually a great way to keep all my necklaces together and untangled. I'm thinking I might need to make another for the actual pencils!

Monday 3 June 2013

away with friends

awayawayaway with friendsawayaway with friendsawayfriendshipaway with friendsaway away with friendsaway with friendsaway

Its taken some organisation to get seven lovely, busy friends away at the same time, its been way too long since our last big trip to Melbourne.

This weekend though saw us finally all away together at this great big house I found in the Southern Highlands, tucked away on land at the end of the road, bordered on three sides by the stunning Mount Gibralter Nature Reserve.

The house booked online turned out to be a great find. It boasts lots of bedrooms with crisp white sheets and big fluffy towels, two sitting rooms, one cosy with big stuffed couches and a wood fireplace, another light filled space with floor to ceiling picture windows looking out on the beautiful view. There was even a piano room, though we didn't get round to a singalong, this time!

On Saturday we lunched at the great Berkelouw Book Barn out of Berrima. My friend Jane comes here often and it didn't disappoint. The big light dining space is surrounded by shelves and shelves of books and bordered by a 15 foot sandstone fireplace. Sadly my phone battery died before I could take any good photos, but I did manage to immortalise my lunch of Blue Swimmer crab linguine with chilli and lemon zest, the important stuff! We had a long slow lunch tucked away out of the rain and cold catching up on our busy lives.

Yesterday after a slow breakfast at home we hit Bowral for coffee at the cosy Elephant Boy cafe in main street Bowral. We then spent a couple of hours of shopping, including  a browse at the lovely shop Three Wise Monkeys, and an inspiring visit to the Dirty Jane's antique market, a great find of lots of vintage sellers together under one roof. Both kept us distracted and happy for a good while.  We finished our time away with a very late lunch of potato and leek soup back at Elephant Boy, surrounded again with beautiful old books, before packing up and heading home.

I love these girls, and it was inspiring and relaxing to spend good long hours together, having time to catch up properly and talk about work, family, life and love. We fitted in a long walk one day before the rain started, and stayed up late into the night laughing in our pyjamas round the flickering fire.

I came back with few physical souvenirs, but lots of lovely memories and conversations to ponder, and another rich layer to each of these precious friendships. And plans for another trip, much sooner this time!