Thursday, January 29, 2009


I am very glad this week that I am in Sydney and not Melbourne or Adelaide - I hope those of you in the southern states are coping ok with the heatwave.

Yesterday I managed to finish another angel - yay! I can't have too many more to go now.

And there is a bit of planning going on here at the moment - I am thinking pinwheels...

The fabric on the right with the tulips was a piece I bought in Melbourne over Christmas, and last Monday I found it again at Spotlight for $4 a metre, so I grabbed some more. Spotlight has another sale starting today - 30% off fabric when you buy all the remaining fabric on the roll/bolt (and it includes fabric already on sale)... thankfully I can't get to Spotlight anytime soon, I suspect I would spend a lot of money if I did!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Australia Day!

Happy Australia Day everyone! How lucky are we to live in this glorious country? I can’t imagine wanting to live anywhere else.

Some very Australian icons for this special day...

The coathanger - aka the Sydney Harbour Bridge:

The Sydney Opera House:

The Koala and the Eucalyptus:

With the hot weather we are currently experiencing in Sydney, the last thing I want to do is put the oven on of an evening or stand over the stove, so we have been enjoying lots of salads for dinner. Last night, we also wanted to eat in front of the TV so that we could watch the tennis – Go Jelena!!!

This recipe comes from Karen Martini’s first book – Where The Heart Is. We’ve made it a few times now and I love how beautiful something so simple can taste. It does require very good quality tomatoes though – I wouldn’t even bother if all I could get were those hard orange-y tomatoes that you often see at the supermarket. Vine ripened tomatoes are good and home-grown would be even better if you are lucky enough to have your own garden.

The cheese bathed in yoghurt and oil sounds a little strange – but I promise you, it makes the dish! I have written the recipe below with Ms Martini’s suggested amounts of oil, however we NEVER use the amounts she suggests, always using less. So please adjust the oil to your taste.
Insalata caprese
Serves 4-6

3 long, fat red chillies
8-10 bocconcini, torn into thirds
3 tablespoons good quality natural yoghurt
150ml extra virgin olive oil
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
4-6 med-large vine ripened tomatoes, thickly sliced
½ red onion, finely chopped
20 fresh basil leaves
½ clove garlic
3 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
crusty bread to serve

Preheat oven to 150C. Place chillies on a lined baking tray and bake for about 15mins. Place cooked chillies in a plastic bag, tie the bag up and leave to cool – approx 10mins. Peel away the loosened skins and then slice the chillies into strips.

Place torn cheese into a medium size bowl with the yoghurt, 50ml (please adjust to taste) extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Separately, in a mortar and pestle, bruise the 20 basil leaves with the garlic and the 100ml remaining olive oil.

On your serving platter, arrange tomatoes and then top with the cheese mixture. Sprinkle the finely chopped onion and the red chilli strips on top. Drizzle with the smashed basil/garlic/oil mix and the balsamic vinegar. Decorate with extra basil leaves.

Serve with crusty bread for a light summer meal.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Although I have a number of quilts waiting to be quilted or in the middle of quilting, the last thing I want to do in the current Sydney weather is sit on the couch with a quilt on my lap. The last few days have all been over 30 degrees Celcius and the humidity has been stifling! So I spent one afternoon preparing my blocks for Gail Pan's A Christmas Wish BOM.
Apart from the green fabric on the block second from the left, I am trying to only use fabric I already have, so my quilt will have more of a scrappy feel to it. I am also only using the DMC threads I already have - so my yellow french knots are rather bright - but they kind of look like wattle, which I don't mind at all. I am looking forward to seeing the stitchery for the next block.

The latest kit from the Pincushion of the Month club also arrived this week and I just love the fabrics and the stitcheries. I made the basic pin cushion immediately (and discovered I am not very good at keeping ric rac even!), but the kit did not contain any buttons and I didn't have anything suitable, so it's not quite finished yet. I have also completed 2 of the stitcheries, but the pincushions would be huge, and it's not like I need anymore pincushions either - so I think I might make them into a wallhanging... I'm not sure just yet.

And I've also signed up for my first swap! The Itching 2 B stitching We the people Scrap Mini Swap (it's a bit of a mouthful isn't it?!).

The swap involves sending 15 scraps of nice fabric (at least the size of your hand open and fingers spread slightly) to your swap partner - easy huh? Definitely a good one for a first swap. I am already excited! I wonder what I will get...

And I have just come across this blog - In Stitches - and I am a little disturbed at how similar the author Kate and I are (we are both scientists in our 20s with cats who love to quilt..odd!) - but anyway, Kate is having a giveaway to celebrate her 50th post - check it out here.

Have a great Australia Day weekend!

Friday, January 16, 2009

being way too organised... or is that super slow?

I have completed three projects this week - all of which are Christmas themed. So, am I just super slow at finishing the wall hangings I would have liked to have done by Christmas 2008 or just very organised for 2009?

I choose the latter!

This one is 12 Red Robins, by Cinderberry Stitches:

The stitchery in the next one is from a free pattern by Gail Pan found here.

As I had already used a varigated red floss for my 12 red robins stitchery, I decided to give the DMC light effects thread in red a try. The result is a gorgeous sparkly stitchery, perfect for a Christmas themed project, but boy was it a pain in the #$%@ to stitch with!

And this one I didn't actually start until the beginning of January. As I was putting away our Christmas decorations I came accross a card, handmade by my Aunt a couple of years ago, which I had been keeping. I decided to finally pull her gorgeous cross-stitch out and frame it into a wall hanging. And I had the most perfect material in my stash to match her candy cane!

Then I decided I actually should get organised for Christmas 2009 and started on Gail Pan's free BOM - A Christmas Wish.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Spicy Stewed Apples

While I was in Melbourne over the Christmas and New Year period I managed to squeeze in a little shopping between seeing family and friends. In addition to the usual fabric shopping (including a trip to Spotlight which seems to stock more quilting and patchwork supplies in their Melbourne stores than they do in Sydney – strange!), I also picked up some supplies for the kitchen, including these spice mixes from a company called Spice & Spice: Apple Spice Mix and Moroccan and Spanish spice mixes.

It was the apple spice mix that sucked me in – I love stewed apples. I enjoy them warm with custard and/or ice-cream, and cold on bircher muesli. At first glance I could see star anise, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds and cardamom pods in amongst other unknown ground spices and sugar, but there was something else in there which intrigued me, a whole spice I had never seen before. I later discovered my mystery spice was dried hawthorne. I have never used coriander, cardamom or star anise in my stewed apple, usually just sticking to the tried and true cinnamon and nutmeg combo, but the coriander, star anise and cardamom, combined with the hawthorne fascinated me enough to pick up a pack.

The hawthorne tree is a member of the rose family and from my quick google searching, appears to have been used for years as a medicinal herb to treat ailments such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. On the Spice & Spice website (and on the recipe sheet that came with the spices) they suggest that the hawthorne has a sour apple taste and is nice eaten with the stewed apples. Fantastic I thought, one less spice to pick out after cooking!

Spicy Stewed Apples

4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
½ cup water
½ packet of Spice & Spice Vanilla Apple Spice Mix (being careful to only use half of the whole spices)

Mix together diced apples, water and half a packet of Spice & Spice Vanilla Apple Spice mix in a small saucepan. Cover with a tightly fitting lid and cook on low heat for 30-45 mins or until apples are soft, stirring occasionally and adding more water if needed.

If you like the apple pieces to stay whole, then avoid stirring too often, however if you prefer more of a puree, then stir away! Once cooked, carefully pick all the whole spices from the apples, leaving behind the hawthorne.

The apples took on a wonderful rich colour and had a lovely tang courtesy of the hawthorne, a soft floral note from the cardamom and a wonderful spiciness I don’t usually associate with apples. The spicy stewed apples were wonderful warm with vanilla ice-cream and have been very yummy on my morning muesli, but I think these spicy apples would definitely shine in a crumble. Perhaps that’s what I will do with the other half of the packet!

Spice & Spice spice mixes can be purchased online via their website or on Etsy and I can definitely recommend the apple spice mix! Next, I want to give the Moroccan mix a go!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mum's quilt

My Mum is a quilter too. I discovered the world of patchwork and quilting when Mum took me to a quilt show about 4 or 5 years ago. Mum also bought me my first sewing machine for Christmas (which I still use) about 12 months after that. We did classes together too, one Saturday morning a month (with Mum's good friend and her daughter also) for a couple of years until my husband and I moved to Sydney. It's lovely to have a hobby that we can share.
Whenever I visit my parents, Mum and I always end up in her sewing room (formerly my childhood bedroom), where I go through all her new fabric and check out her latest projects. Over Christmas I was able to sneak a peak at Mum's quilt for my new baby cousin Belle. I asked if I could show it off here because I think it is gorgeous and thankfully she agreed.

I really like how bright it is!

The back:
Mum is also an avid gardener. I didn't get any pics of her vegetable patch while I was there - but let me tell you, it is seriously impressive! I did grab a few pics of her flowers though.

There are lots of daisies

And Chinese lanterns
And roses. This rose, if I remember corectly, is called 'Circus' and was picked by my sister when we were much younger. I chose another rose called 'Peace' which grows outside Mum's sewing room window.

And Mum gave me a stack of new fabric for Christmas too - I am currently trying to find the perfect project for the two pink ones in the middle.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

cupcake bites

Bakerella - a super blogger who has even showcased her talents on the Martha Stewart show in the US - makes the most gorgeous cupcake pops.

'Cupcake what?' I hear you ask! Cupcake pops are chocolate covered balls of cake stuck on the end of a lolly stick - a cross between a cupcake and a lolly pop! She has made some seriously impressive Christmas themed ones including reindeer and trees, some turkeys, some for the US election, and halloween ones - just to name a few! Make sure you check out her versions - they are Seriously impressive!

However when I decided to have a go, I decided to stick with her cupcake bites - similar to cupcake pops, but they don't go on a stick! These took a fair bit of time to make - so don't start them thinking they'll be something quick you can whip up!

Cupcake Bites

1 baked cake
1 container of betty crocker icing (or you could use some thick buttercream icing that you had made yourself - but I am lazy!)
1 pack of milk chocolate melts
1 pack of white chocolate melts
Sprinkles and mini m&ms to decorate
1 flower shaped cookie cutter (approx 1.25" wide X .75" tall)

Bake a cake from a mix or from scratch and allow it to cool completely. Crumble the cake into a large bowl.

Add a couple of spoonfulls of icing at a time and mix it into the cake crumbs thoroughly until it is a sticky mix that will form balls when pressed together. Roll mixture into balls about 1.25" - 1.5" in size and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Place the tray in the freezer for about 10 mins (or the fridge for a couple of hours).

Remove the cake balls from the freezer. Take each chilled ball and roll it into more of an oval shape and then slide it into cookie cutter. Push it into cutter until about half fills the cutter and the rest sticks out of the top in the shape of a mound. Then push the shaped cupcake carefully out of the cookie cutter from the bottom. Set right side up on your baking paper covered tray. There is a video and step by step photos of this step here on Bakerella's website which might make this a little clearer. Continue with remaining balls.

Once shaped, cover and return the balls to the freezer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt your chocolate melts according to the instructions on the pack. I used milk chocolate for the bottoms, and white chocolate (which I coloured with red food colouring) for the tops.

Remove the cakes from the freezer and set up another baking paper covered tray. Take the cupcake shaped mixture and dip the bottoms into the melted chocolate - just to the point where the mounded shape starts. Remove from the chocolate, turn upside down and lay them on the paper upside down.

Once the milk chocolate has set dip the tops of the cupcakes into the pink or white chocolate being careful to cover all the exposed areas (I found this not only the most fiddly step - but the messiest! Now I can see the attraction of having them on sticks!).

Turn the cupcake right side up and place it on the tray. Decorate with m&m's and sprinkles while the chocolate is still wet.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

One project a month challenge...

May Britt and Kris have set a challenge - to finish one project a month, with a specific focus on work already in progress... I'm in.

I need all the motivation I can get to finish all the projects I have on the go already (plus all those I want to start!).

Head here or here to read the rules of the challenge.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

back to the daily grind...almost

We arrived home in Sydney last night after 2 wonderful weeks in our home town Melbourne. Although it was more like winter than summer in Melbourne, we did manage a bit of this... (yep, I stayed on the sand - no way was I swimming in the cold cold water!)

And a bit of this...

I finally finished the quilt for my baby cousin Belle, only 18 days after she was born. This was the one which I had a terrible trouble quilting. I wasn't entirely happy with the end result but it was the best I could do.

Please excuse all the wrinkles - it had just come out of the washing machine when I took the pictures.

Then, 19 days after she was born, I got to meet Belle.

Today we finally got to taste the Christmas cake I made at the end of November...

And tomorrow it's back to work... Can't say I'm too excited about the prospect of work, but it is nice to be back in our own home and cooking for ourselves again.

Also - make sure you check out Sarah's giveaway - click on the picture on the right hand side to go to her blog. She has a gorgeous camera bag that she is generously giving away.