Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tasty Things

This is the second time I have made this polenta cake. Its gluten free and uses polenta and ground almonds instead. However it does contain eggs so I can't eat too much at once. This time I used limes instead of lemons and it was lovely. The cake has a lot of butter in it too so its not so healthy but very tasty!

I tried making Macarons for the first time. I was surprised to find out that Macarons are wheat free! They are made with ground almonds, egg white and sugar. It was going well in the oven but they flattened out once I took them out and I didn't get nice little 'feet' on them. They were also much too sticky.

After cooking they went quite flat. Fortunately they tasted quite nice so we ate them anyway. Though once again they have egg whites in them so I had to restrain myself to just eating one or two (dozen!). 

I filled some and then I baked some of them a second time and we just ate them as is. I put lemon rind in the shells so they had some flavor without the filling. For the filling I used white chocolate, coconut cream and lemon. This was an excellent plan as the filling was very good. In fact I think the filling was more successful than the shells!

Fortunately the Creme Brulee turned out perfect. I used the egg yolks left over from making the Macarons. Turns out I can tolerate these quite nicely. I used real vanilla beans to make them and that made them taste MAGNIFICENT. 

 Alas my grill is not hot enough to get nice toffee on the top without burning the brulee. Next time I shall have to get a brulee torch!

I used this recipe from the Guardian to make the Creme Brulee. It really is easy and tastes amazing. I had no idea it was so easy to make so I'll have to make more in the future. The fun part is thinking up different flavors to put in them. Though I think Vanilla Bean is the classic.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Happiness with Yarn

This is my incomplete version of the Coogee Bay Dress from Interweave Crochet Summer 2012. The original version was a bit too big for me (pattern is only one size) so I modified the number of squares (the dress is made of square motifs joined together) to make it smaller. 

I ran out of cotton at this point so had to get more...unfortunately the new cotton is a different shade, much lighter, so I'll have to dye it. As its a fairly neutral colour cotton I'm planning on using black tea to dye  it after I finish. I'm hoping this will even out the tones. Hopefully!

So as you can see from the picture I'm up to the skirt portion.

The original has longer sleeves than this but I thought they would be too big for me so I shortened the shoulder/sleeves to one square rather than two. I might add some length to the sleeves if I have any cotton left after making the skirt.

This top is from Vogue Knitting Winter 2011/12. I made this in a green cotton/silk blend. My camera can't really photograph green so you will just have to imagine this is nice dark forest green with hints of grey.

The nice thing about this pattern is the twist at the front which reveals the reverse side of the stockinette stitch. The little texture change is really subtle but gives this top some interest.

This cardigan is from Knitscene Winter 2011. I knit this one up using linen, cotton and silk. I lengthened the cardigan a little as I have a long torso.

The grey is linen/cotton, the black is cotton and the neckline is cotton held together with black Tussah silk from Habu. The Tussah silk gives the neckline some structure and a little crunch. The linen/cotton makes the cardigan comfortable to wear even in tropical weather.

This book is a facsimile edition of a Renaissance book published in 1587. It also contains another book published in the early 1600s. The patterns are Italian designs published in French. This book brings out the historian in me but also makes me squeal in happiness when I see things such as the bird motif.

I loved this bird pattern so I decided to try making it in Filet crochet. All I did was count the number of squares and make them in crochet mesh then fill in where the pattern picture was shaded. The hardest thing was counting the squares. I made this in bright blue #20 crochet cotton.

I'm so happy with how it turned out. It measures about 600mm x 600m. I wear it folded in half as a little shawl.  

Crochet birds make me almost as happy as real ones! These birds are my favourite birds too - Pigeons! 

 The cheerful blue colour makes me happy too.

At the moment I'm working on a Batwing sleeve cardigan from Fall/Winter 2012 Debbie Bliss Magazine. The pattern uses a much finer yarn than I had on hand in my stash so I adapted the pattern to suit my yarn. I used a much larger needle to get a nice soft drape and reduced the number of stitches. The pattern was also too large so I made it a little smaller. I plan on adding some silver yarn into the cuffs to give it some interest. 

After this I plan to make this cardigan in Grey and Fluorescent Yellow cotton.  Yes, Fluorescent Yellow.

Why sew?

I made a commitment this year to not buy any clothes. So far I have more or less stuck to my plan. All I have brought are things I can't make like tights or shoes or jeans. However I weakened recently at the price of a $5 viscose cardigan on sale at Cotton On. Fast-fashion is just so cheap that its hard for a girl to resist. I am mortal after all!  I can't make things for as cheap as the big chains can. But I can make things of better quality and with nicer materials. I can use linen and cotton and cool polka-dots and sew careful seams and lining. I can choose exactly what style, colour and fabric I use to suit myself. Even though I occasionally crave the thrill of purchase and the quick and ready-made, I'm glad I have tried to make my own clothes. I get so much more satisfaction from wearing things I made myself. My sewing is also getting better. Now my clothes don't look home-made in a bad way. It makes me very happy when people ask when I got my dress and I can say I made it and they are genuinely shocked!

 This dress pattern is from BurdaStyle. I sewed the dress in a linen/cotton blend so it falls nicely. I modified the sleeves a bit and gave them a little pleat so they sat nicer across my shoulders. I'm so happy with this dress. I love the indigo colour too.

 Rather than buy pajama pants I decided to make my own. I used fabric that I like but is a bit too shocking for my quiet personality to wear out! One pair is in linen/cotton (same print as the dress) and the other is cotton. I gave both a simple elastic waistband. 

The pattern is my own adaptation of a pair of pj shorts. I used the instructions in Cal Patch's book to lengthen the pants.

As a child I always wanted to wear a Tutu but I never go to. So I decided to make myself a Tutu skirt. This project I've dreamt about for about 2 years, but only got to making it this past week. The skirt is made up of 3 layers: 2 of Bridal Tulle and one of acetate lining. I sewed both to the elastic waistband. 

When I wear this skirt out, people are nicer to me. Random strangers smile at me in the street. I guess big swooshey tutu skirts make people happy. It sure makes me happy!

Because I lost a lot of weight I can't wear any of my trousers so I decided to make some. These pants are from a book called 'Simple Modern Sewing' and were quite easy to make...However after I had sewed up the blue linen I realised it was more translucent than I thought so I had to line them. After rummaging around in my fabric stash I found enough white cotton fabric to line the pants.

The pants are really comfy. There is a lot to be said for an elastic waist!

This dress is my adapation from  'Simple Modern Sewing'. The book designed this dress for linen but I wanted to use this pleated polyester. I also decided to modify the hemline to slope from front to back. The change of fabric meant I had to stabilise the top to prevent it stretching out and I added a half-lining of black cotton drill fabric to keep it nice-shaped.

This is the sloped hemline. It looks like a 1920s dress when worn.

The pattern had these nice fold-over shoulder details that I liked.

I had about 0.5m of grey jersey left from my Drape Drape dress and I wanted to make a shawl. I had seen a scarf at the Purl Bee with Pompom edging and thought it looked cool so I decided to make one. Mine is a circle scarf as I only had about 1.0m of length for the scarf - too short to wear as a regular scarf.

The pompom scarf has the same effect as the tutu skirt - it makes people smile. This is a good thing to happen when you walk about!

This dress is from a BurdaStyle pattern. I made this in light grey polka-dot polyester chiffon. This was the first time I had ever sewed chiffon and it was a little bit tricky. I had to zigzag stitch all the pieces before I sewed them as they were unraveling fast! Fortunately the zigzagging also helped to stabilise the seams and keep things from sliding away while sewing as I couldn't pin the pieces as pinning left holes. I definitely learnt a lot from this dress!

I am quite happy with my neat seams around the neck and sleeves. The asymmetrical neckline turned out nice too. It has a simple press-stud to fasten.

More sewing adventures await!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Updates from the little garden

Our Chinese Greens are growing well. Since this was taken they have grown twice as big and need re-potting so they each have enough space to breathe. I'm already plotting how to eat them.

My colleague gave me this Water Moss and its a great little plant. It enjoys a little sunlight every now and then to photosynthesize  You can actually see it making oxygen as little bubbles appear on the surface of the moss then float to the top! 

We have harvested our first Chillies! They are very hot so we can't eat so many at once so I'm drying them to keep for later when the plant is not fruiting. 

I am so happy that my bean is now growing beans of its own. It has two beans now and they are getting quite big. Interestingly they are not the same colour as the beans I brought from the supermarket and sprouted. The ones from the supermarket were pale and striped with pink! Oh well, I'm just glad Bean is growing nicely!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Some walks and some things which are lovely...

The Mr. and I went to Pulau Ubin, an island just off the shore of Singapore.  We didn't see a lot of wildlife because it was around noon when we went and all the birds and animals were having their midday nap. This beautiful Kingfisher and his mate were calling to each other though and considering little Crabs and Mud Skippers for lunch.

Two large-ish Mudskippers enjoying the mud (fishy shapes below the piece of metal!).

In the centre of this picture is a bluish blur. This blur is a beautiful blue/green metallic pigeon, probably an Emerald Pigeon. An extraordinary sight. Unfortunately I was not fast enough with the camera! You just need to know if was quite possibly the most lovely pigeon I've ever seen.

This little Zebra Dove was wandering around with 3 friends at the carpark at my work. I only got one picture before he got scared and flew off. Zebra Doves are really small, I imagine you could comfortably fit one in your hand...not that they would appreciate that!

Quite a perfect mushroom/toadstool specimen seen on another walk. 

The dangers of walking in the tropics!

The weather this past week or two has been nice and cool and rainy. In this weather, the hills behind take on mist as if they are distant mountains.

And then we get this! Perfect blue skies are rare for Singapore, but one morning I woke up to this sight. Even the airplane trail looks lovely!

Having plants inside the kitchen seems to be attracting ladybugs. This is the first of two spotted last week. They are so tiny and beautifully spotted. Its very reassuring that such beautiful bugs would like to hang out at my kitchen. It must be an alright place to be!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Some birdies

This is the Asian Glossy Starling. Not a view you normally get unless you happen to spot one on a tree branch above you or like this one, on a lightning conductor above you. This one is a juvenile as evidenced by his pale underside and nice speckley pattern on his throat. Hanging onto the lightening conductor looked tricky and he didn't stay for long.

Every evening on the block next to mine the birds gather to say goodnight. I like to see how many can fit on the aerials. Latecomers have to go on the next block as the early birds get the good seats!

This Brahminy Kite likes to hang around near my place circling around and around. He is quite magnificent to watch though I always worry for all the other birds around!

Pretty Colours

These are all the colours I've developed over the last few months.

Left to Right: 
Tumeric/Tea/Red Cabbage
Portobello Mushroom
Red Cabbage (acidic)
Red Cabbage (neutral)
Red Cabbage (alkaline)
Black Beans (neutral)
Black Beans (alkaline)
Copper (diluted)
Copper (strong)
Copper (very strong with vinegar)

Now I have the colour and they seem to be relatively stable over several months its onto whole skeins! Then I take over the world!

Ignore Everything and Look at Pretty Yarn

Isn't this the most lovely thing you have seen?

I finally made a 'natural' green dye for yarn.

Its magnificent.

Its a celery green colour. Quite vegetal.

I made it from copper, vinegar and lots of time (about 3 months). I'm not sure what the chemical name is for this but I think its Copper Acetate. Not sure if its poisonous, so I wore gloves and rinsed the yarn very well.

The dye is actually a blue green colour but this skein is under-dyed with black tea and so was yellowish. Thus mixing blueish and yellowish I made green.

This is the copper wire soaking in vinegar about 2 months in. You can see the bright blue colour of the vinegar below and the crystals forming on the wire.

This is the copper wire after I took it out after 3 months. After this stage I soaked the wire in a little water to remove the blue from the wire. Worked really nicely.

On the left is yarn that was not under-dyed with anything, its just a natural wool colour. The finished yarn colour is much closer to blue than green.

This was my first experiment with wool in a tiny amount of the blue liquid that showed me that the colour would stick and might produce greens or blues.