Monday, August 20, 2012

A little garden

 I brought some beans at the supermarket. I thought I'd have a go at sprouting them. I placed 6 on damp paper towel and waited. First one sprouted, then another. Then nothing! The other four didn't spout at all after 2 weeks. Then the second one stopped growing and the first one took off like a rocket. I think it must have been watching the Olympics!

After a few short days of growing roots, it started to spout up. In one day alone it grew about 2 inches!

It grew so fast I had to rush out and buy some potting mix for it. It now has a nice view out the window and is stretching towards the sunshine. Today it grew about an inch and in the last 2 days it has sprouted three new leaves. I don't know if it will ever grow beans but its so fun to watch that I don't mind. Its so satisfying to see things grow. Its also kinda magical that things grow at all, all I did was add water! By the way, his name is Bean.

One of my colleagues was slowly killing this nice Staghorn Fern so I took it home. Since I took it home and nursed it back to health its grown 7 new leaves and is looking decidedly perky. I've named him Planty in honour of My Milk Toof's pet plant. Sadly, some little bugs are eating the dry bits of Planty, so I have to spray him with some organic pest-killer (hope it doesn't hurt him!).

While I was at the nursery getting soil for Bean, we brought 3 other plants: A basil, a rosemary and a chilli padi. So now we have a little garden. So far we are calling them Bas, Rose and Paddy, not very original, but I think they should have names.

 So far they look happy. I'm planning on putting some of them in a pie soon! (But don't tell them, they might get scared!). They smell soooo good!

Inspired by Hermine's avocado growing adventures I decided to try my own. Out of 5 that I had in water, so far one has leaves. Three didn't make it after 3 months so I was left with two. The first one sprouted but has been growing very very slowly. The second one has grown roots and is now busy making leaves. I've got another pot ready for him once he grows a little taller. His name is Avi (short for Avicenna, after the philosopher). The other one is called Ave (short for Averroes).

Pies (and some bread)

Since what I can eat has been fairly limited, I've been experimenting with cooking more. I was craving a nice pie so I did some searching and testing and came up with a passable wheat & egg-free shortcrust pastry.

The first experiment was a sweet pumpkin pie. This one was so good it disappeared in about 3 days. The filling is pumpkin, cinnamon, coconut milk and condensed milk. 

 Then I thought I'd try a dark chocolate pie. This one has about 200g of melted 70% dark chocolate and 300ml of whipped cream. I used the skills I learnt while watching Emmanuel Mollois on Poh's Kitchen to ensure I didn't melt the cream with the hot chocolate. Specifically I was inspired by this beauty of chocolate goodness. I didn't add any sugar to the filling so you really taste the bitter dark chocolate instead of sugar. That way you can eat a larger slice!

I tried making 100% rye bread. It tasted great but my stomach didn't like it. Though I really enjoyed making bread. I used Yoke Mardewi's book for instructions (though I didn't make sourdough) and adapted them for 100% rye. I hope to make a bread that my stomach likes one day. I really miss bread. Grilled cheese sandwiches are just so nice!

I adapted my shortcrust pastry to use as a base for a cheesecake. I added 1/3 almond meal to give the base some texture as I think cheesecake bases are good with texture. The filling is cream cheese, cream, lemon juice, blueberries and about 1/3 cup of icing sugar. This really was delicious!

I've been dreaming of more pie fillings every since I made the first pie. I want to try a savoury pie next. Something with cheese and spinach perhaps...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sew what?

This is the first time I've sewed so much in my entire life. Sewing has become a respite from feeling sick and is a practical solution to the fact that my clothes no longer fit me. Also the more I sew the more enjoyable I find it. I've learnt alot of things about sewing over the past few months.

The first lesson is patience. Read the pattern carefully, prewash fabric well, layout fabric and pin carefully then test stitches. I'm usually one for jumping in with making and hoping for the best, however I'm learning that unpicking seams is not fun so if you are more careful, you actually save both time and heartache.

The second lesson has been understanding what fabric goes with what pattern. I usually just find a pattern I like and a fabric I like and go for it. However I've been much more careful with reading the pattern's recommended fabrics and selecting one from my stash to suit. Case in point: drapey fabric needs drapey pattern. Structured dress needs structured fabric.

The third lesson has been to test sew. I had a tough dress to make and so did a mock-up before trying it out in my more expensive fabric. The results are worth it, I have a very nice dress at the end of it with perfect seams and correctly draped and tucked. This is especially important if I'm sewing something where the instructions are not in a language I can read. Case in point: dress from Japanese book Drape Drape.

 The test dress from Drape Drape in cheap yellow jersey. I modified the pattern to line the back of the dress too as this fabric was a little too light.

 Even though it was a test, it turned out quite wearable (despite all the mistakes I made!)

This is the final version in grey jersey. I love how it turned out though the draping does make it a heavy dress to wear. This one has no mistakes thanks to my test piece. 

I made another simple gathered skirt. This one is made out of quilting weight cotton so has a nice stiffness that I think works with this type of pattern. The fabric has an old fashioned circus print with animals and trapeze artists. It is good to cheer up a day. I love the green background too.

Silk velvet skirt. This one is based on the simple skirt instructions from Cal Patch's book which I followed carefully and made my own pattern from. The fabric is really lovely, 100% silk velvet and feels amazing. I had just enough for the skirt, the fabric is actually an upholstery sample and so was only about 42 inches wide and 46 inches long, I really had to squeeze the skirt out of the fabric! I finished the skirt with some vintage cotton bias tape at the waist, a zip and a hook and eye for the side fastening. I was careful to double stitch the seams as the fabric falls apart easily and shed black fluff all over the floor and myself while sewing!

Unfortunately I lost weight again after I sewed this skirt so its now too big for me! 

This top was a test run for a dress (see below). I used it to test out the sizing for the darts and how the sleeves fit me. So for this I just used some yellow muslin that I had dyed in black tea and bias tape I had left over from my white dress.

I then experimented with cotton synthetic fabric paint to make a dye by dipping the shirt in it. It turned out quite nice, but I'm yet to see if the colour stuck to the fabric. At them moment it turns my hands a little blue which is not ideal!

This is the first dress I made using the pattern. I used a really lovely light cotton print for this one. I kept the hems all simple, just double turned. And I added pockets of course!

For the second version I used a heavier cotton and used red bias tape to trim the sleeves, neck and pockets. The combination of red and blue reminds me of a 60's air stewardess uniform, which I think is rather nice.