Friday, May 26, 2017

Beautification

Time for a garden update. After we pulled out the corn and the garden looked bare and awful for a while. Not for long though, because a plethora of pumpkin vines came up from the compost and because the weather wasn't quite right to plant anything else, we let them grow. 

And grow they did. You can read about pumpkin spoils here and here. But then the weather got to be just right for planting other things, and so the pumpkins were not longer appreciated. I thought they would die back naturally, after they had grown their pumpkins, but alas, they just kept growing (you can see their abundant growth in a picture in this post from March). In the end, we had to do a big cull of pumpkin vines so that we could top up the dirt, re-mulch and plant the tomato seedlings. 

Now the garden looks like this:


Some of those seedlings came from a friendly neighbourhood donation actually. Someone else in in the suburb had a heap pop up and decided they could share the tomato love. What a great neighbourhood we live in!

The garden looks so professional, we we even put in some stakes and wire for the tomato plants to be supported by. There is one pumpkin vine (top left), which grows out of the box and onto the grass. There are two pumpkins still on this vine growing steadily. I've also put some snow pea seeds in too, so hopefully we will see them sprout up soon.

Meanwhile, out front, our rusty old wire fence is getting some winter beautification. Last winter, I planted snow peas around the swing set, using the poles for a natural trellis. You can read about it here. I noticed then that the ones that did the best were the ones in the sun the most. Thinking about it, the front of our house gets a lot of sun most days, so using the front fence for a trellis seemed to be the next logical thing.


The kids and I planted these. I went along with a shovel and made a little hole and got the kids to follow me with seeds and the instruction that they were to put one seed in each hole. Then we went along with a bag of potting mix and they put a handful of potting mix on the top of each.


They look small and cute now, but hopefully they grow up and make the rusty front fence look a bit nicer, even for just a little while. There are a mix of snow peas and other bean seeds, just for variety. Should be good. The gaps are where there was some random cement in the ground (I can only assume from a previous fence?) or the kids missed a hole.


This clump of seedlings are from the first hole, where the children clearly got over excited about putting seeds in.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Reality Dreams

It's a reality! This is the dress I dreamed about for a long time. That I made muslin practice dresses for, and that now finally I get to wear. 


The material is this gorgeous orange (not yucky in-your-face orange) sushi themed print that I got from another Japanese teacher who wasn't going to use it. I still have three meters of it and Sophie keeps asking for a dress, so maybe it will be used again soon. Not sure how I feel about matching dresses though. It's just not really my thing. Anyway, if you wanted to buy this fabric, you could find it here. It's fabulous. 


I wore the dress on Sunday to church and then we went to the park afterwards for lunch and a play. Steve took these photos there, as we enjoyed the wonderful autumn weather. I'm so bummed I didn't think to take my sunnies off, but such is life. 


The girls were also in home made dresses (coincidence!) which made me feel extra special. Maybe I am the Proverbs 31 woman after all!? You can read about the girls dresses here


And here are the dresses hanging on the washing line. From the initial dress that started it all, to the wearable muslin, and finally the sushi dress. I feel like seeing them all on the line confirms that I am actually wearing dresses more, which was just one of the goals here. Success! 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

To Infinity and Beyond!

This post starts with a confession: I like to wear dresses. I really do. There is something inexplicably beautiful about wearing a dress, even if it's an about-the-home dress that's easy to throw on and ok to get a bit of sticky-fingered-child-love on. 

I don't get to wear dresses enough, because even though dresses can be, they are not always practical for the kind of work I do. The kind where pockets are a must for all sorts of miscellaneous essentials like tissues, lip balm, rocks from who knows where, animal toys, phones, keys and the like. The kind of work where I'm going to be sitting on the ground and may have to suddenly lunge with no warning to save a child from some imminent danger, thus needing to be modest and flexible. 

Sigh. Not many dresses fit this line of work at all. It's rather disappointing when every day I wear the same outfit in a different variation: shorts and t-shirt. Now that it's coming into winter, it's a mix of jeans and a t-shirt, sometimes with a hoodie! Sigh. 

A few months ago, I was hanging up dresses in my cupboard and I found one that I can not remember seeing before at all. Honestly. I do get many of my clothes as hand me downs from my generous patrons of fashion (also known as my sisters). There is probably about an 75% hand me down to 25% self bought ratio, although in recent years the gap is closing, so in all likely hood this dress was just another hand me down that I have forgotten about, but I was still perplexed as to how it got into my cupboard with no recollection from me. 

What was more perplexing was that when I put it on, it fit so comfortably, that I have no idea how I could possibly have had it in the cupboard but not realised what a great dress it was! Curious and curiouser! 

After wearing it a few times, I decided I must recreate more of this fabulous dress, because, perfectly fitting though it was, it was lacking in pockets. So I looked at the dress and thought about it, and drew my own pattern for it. 

I'm a little bit shocked at how far I've come with sewing. That I can now look at a dress and know what parts go where and how it might be constructed is astonishing to me. That I can confidently cut the fabric and sew with some semblance of a unified seam allowance leaves me perplexed. In a good way. 

I have heard/read of people who make a "muslin" before they make the actual dress, and for once I found myself in the same boat. The "muslin" is just essentially a rough draft dress that you use to check that everything fits where it should, and give you practice at sewing it. I've never sewn one before because it seems like a waste to me to make an entire dress just as practice. And I've never had enough money to justify buying material for a rough draft dress either. 

Enter the space bed sheets that Steve's mum gave me as hand me downs from Steve's childhood. (I've used them before here.) These were in the drawer, and I did need to start cleaning out those drawers, so why not use them for the rough draft dress? Once the problem of material was solved and I started sewing, I realised another exciting factor about sewing the draft dress: you don't have to finish it. 

By "finish it" I don't mean you can leave it half done, but that you don't have to finish the seams (that's the technical term). It means you don't have to sew them so they don't fray, because you won't be wearing this rough draft dress (in theory), so you just sew the basics. No hemming either, or binding the neck holes, or finishing the sleeves. Sewing a draft dress is fast. 

Of course fixing the mistakes of the draft pattern takes longer, but at least you've made progress, and you've seen the way the dress could come together and be amazing. I'm officially converted to making a muslin, because I know if I do it, the end result will actually be great, rather than something I might have to adjust. Here's hoping that people continue to give me old bed sheets to use as drafts for the rest of my life and it does not become a financial burden. 

Back to my story. The first draft dress worked well, but there was something wrong with the bodice fit. Not for nothing did I read iKat Bag's series on dress drafting though! At the time when I was reading the posts, which were long and involved, and slightly over my head, I was wondering if this information would ever come in handy. But when I looked at the draft dress bodice and knew that I needed to take 2cm off the side bodice pieces to bring the princess seams to the correct place in the armscye, I felt empowered beyond belief. 

When the adjustment proved to be exactly correct in the second draft dress, words can not express my joy. There may have even been a dance around the living room. 

Can you see how the Princess Seam fits perfectly there!? 
I'm not sure why I have no photos of these draft dresses, or why I don't even know the current location of these dresses. Surely I didn't throw them before I finished blogging about all this sewing? Who knows. Anyway, in draft dress two, now that the bodice fit, I also added sleeves. Traditionally I don't sew anything with sleeves. Not sure if you've noticed on the girls dresses, but in four years, I've only sewed one with sleeves. 

I had been reading some Sewing Rabbit posts about dresses, and she has a different way of putting sleeves into dresses that seemed to be way easier that the usual way a pattern will tell you to, that I was keen to try. Draft dress two was the perfect time, and again, reading the copious amounts of sewing related blogs paid off. 

Pockets!
It was time to try the real thing but I wasn't quite ready yet. Mostly, after all the sewing of draft dresses using super cool space material (that was also super soft because it had been well used), I kind of wanted a space dress as well as the dress out of the material I originally wanted. I rationalised this by saying a third practice dress that I actually put all the finishes on would be good practice for me, and it would use more space material (remember I needed to clean out the drawer?). On top of that, I could use it when I'm working, because it would have pockets, and I could make it as long as I like for modesty and easy wear. 


So I did. This is actually what I spent most of my Mother's Day on. I sewed while Steve played with the girls. It was really nice to be listening to them play while I got to sew. So spoilt. 


So the Self Drafted Wearable Muslin Space Dress is finished. Sophie's reaction was: "What a beautiful dress Mum! You should wear it to playgroup." I'm a little sad that it's coming into winter and I'll have to layer it, but I think I will be wearing it, and soon. 


And now that it's done and it turned out beautifully, I'm even more excited (if that was possible) about sewing the dress in the fabric I had dreamed about all along. Just wait and see! I really do feel like the options are limitless: to infinity and beyond in the world of dress making! 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mermaids

There has been a lot of undocumented sewing going on around here. Most of which I will talk about in another post. I suppose I say this to somehow justify the absence of regular posting. Meh. Anyway, today's post is about to change things by documenting some sewing that happened only yesterday! What an incredibly fast turn around from sewing to posting. In fact, even from conception to posting is only three days! Record!

And what is this sewing with the record turn around from conception to post, I hear you asking. Well!


Mermaids.

The girls were playing/pretending to be mermaids the other day. They have a Little Mermaid book that we've read and they've seen the movie once or twice too. Ahh the movie of my childhood. So many memories. Anyway, something popped up in my pintrest feed on Sunday about sewing a mermaid tail for a doll, and after several clicks, I finally got here to where the tutorial was. Really easy and straight forward. So I saved it for another day.

On Monday, Sophie told me she was going to be Ariel and Rachel was Flounder. So I happened to mention I had found a pattern for sewing a mermaid tail for her doll if she was interested maybe we could do it together. The response was positive. (At this point, Sophie also pointed out that she too would like a mermaid tail, but I managed to convince her that was for another day.)

So Monday afternoon the material box was out. Both girls made their choices and measured their dolls. They helped with the pins and played with the scraps after cutting. I'm sure they would have helped with the sewing (as per usual), but they got distracted pretending to be mermaids again, so I just did the sewing by myself (much faster).


These were a really easy sew, used up a bit of scrap material, and they look great on the girls dolls. (If you are interested, Sophie's is here, and Rachel's is here.) It's been nice to see the dolls get another run of being played with (they had been on the shelf for a while).


Now it's Tuesday afternoon and the mermaids have been to the swimming lesson and playgroup as well as being the cuddle toy of choice for bedtime last night. And look at me blogging about them! So fast!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Garden Spoils

This is the pumpkin! I totally forgot to weigh it in the end, but it was so nice to cut open and see that lovely orangey-yellow shining out. Mum took a quarter for the Easter family lunch, and I gave wedges away to our neighbours. It even smelt nice when we were cutting it. What shop bought pumpkin smells nice when it's raw? 


I was watering the bed of sweet potato plants wondering how soon it would be until we saw some actual sweet potatoes, when I noticed something pushing out of the soil. Thinking some random animal had been digging up in the bed at night (I've heard stories from the neighbours about some tricky possums in the area), I had a poke around and found that enormous sweet potato you see below.


I quickly followed the vine and found a few more as well. The girls were delighted to see them coming out of the soil. We haven't had sweet potatoes from the garden since last August, so it was really exciting to know stuff is still growing there, especially since the plant has been transplanted twice in that time.

I remarked to Steve that even if it's not at all cost efficient to grow your own veggies, when you take into consideration the water, soil, mulch, etc., not to mention the time it takes to look after said garden, the feeling you get from actually having edible food that you grew yourself is amazing. Totally worth it.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Dresses

With Sally the Sewing Machine being out last week, and school holidays still in progress, I have been able to make another couple of dresses for the girls, just in time for Easter. I didn't really have Easter in mind when I was making them, but after they were finished, they were so bright and colourful, that they just yelled at me to celebrate new life - which is what Easter is all about, right?


These dresses were really fun because I let the girls choose some of the fabric themselves as a treat at the store. They turned out way more matchy than I was anticipating though, because I used the same pattern and material layout, which is a bit of a bummer, but I guess it's not the end of the world. People assured me that they didn't look matchy in the slightest when the girls wore them, so maybe it's just me anyway.


I used the Sally Dress pattern, from Very Shannon. I've used it before here, Sophie's first birthday, and here, just before Rachel was born, but I haven't sewn it in ages (nearly three years!) so I had a few problems getting it together. Somehow I mixed up the bodice construction, and then couldn't be bothered to unpick it, so I did some creative sewing to get those armholes done. It was a bit frustrating, but again, not the end of the world.


The girls love the pockets. So totally perfect for Easter egg hunts!


Sophie and Rachel also took turns helping me to sew things - pushing the reverse button, lifting and dropping the presser foot, being in charge of the pins, which they love. It was nice. On Sophie's the pockets are lined with the butterfly material that is on the hem.


Rachel's has just the blue as lining, but I found that cool old (vintage?) trim in my sewing cabinet that matched rather perfectly. Mum recognised it when she saw it, so I guess it must have come from her stash at some stage and I'm glad I got to use it up.


Rachel was not a happy camper for these photos because we couldn't find Rachel Bunny to go in her pockets and she had to be content with the sheep. Sophie, on the other hand, was too excited to sit still, and all the good shots I have are from her not looking at the camera. Oh well, they show off the dresses nicely.

Happy Easter everyone!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

I Cannot Celebrate Yet

Last week I handed in my final workbook for Tafe. It's official people, I have no more deadlines hanging over my head. But I can't celebrate yet, because even though the workbooks are in, they still need to be assessed, and some of those assessors are incredibly picky. So I'm expecting to have to do some kind of resubmitting before I can officially say that I'm done.

But man does it feel good to be nearly there. I quickly celebrated with a lull in most activity and then surge of sewing. It's so nice to sew. I looked back at the blog history, and I haven't sewn anything since December last year. Before Christmas. That's over three months of sewing hiatus. Too long.


I used a free pattern from The Sewing Rabbit, for these two dresses. It's really easy because there are no closures - no buttons or zips! Hooray! It uses a bit more fabric, but it's worth it for the easiness of the sewing. I had the fabric on hand anyhow. I did leave out two of the ties on each dress - you put them on the sides of the skirt to carry the ties/knot theme through, but I couldn't be bothered.


The material for Sophie's is from mum, I think she got it in Japan before Sophie was born (or when she was very young). It's gorgeous. I used some hand me down scraps from a lady from church for the lining which matched really well. The skirt part is really twirly, because there is heaps of fabric allowed for it. You could totally get away with using less, but I had enough, and I know Sophie does love to dance in twirly dresses.


This is the first time I've made this dress, and it's pretty big, which works really well because we are coming into winter, so the girls can keep wearing them with shirts underneath for warmth. Rachel's was so big on her littleness that I ended up putting a tuck in the back to stop it gaping, but it looks so cute and she loves it. Her dress is made out of a cot sheet I got from a friend.



You can kind of tell because I used the feature of the sheet as a part of the skirt front, but it could also just be extra design, so it passes. I did leave the tag on the inside though, just for authenticity. Rachel really likes her's, but I had problems because the moment Sophie saw it, she wanted to know why she didn't get stars. Despite the fact that only moments ago she was completely in love with her bear dress.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

From Whim to Wepons

Our girls love to play with swords. They like to pretend to be heroes rescuing things from dreadful monsters. Steve loves to teach them good weapons practice and proper sword play. We have a lot of swords for a house with only daughters.

We were packing up said swords last weekend and Steve asked where they usually lived. In a box in the laundry, as it turned out, so he suggested making a weapons rack for proper sword storage. I agreed. I mean, who wouldn't take the opportunity to get out the cardboard and hot glue gun? And make storage?! It's like a dream. :D

This post has an incredibly rare action shot of me actually doing some crafting, because Steve was there to document things. The girls were in charge of important things like getting the cardboard toilet rolls out and counting them to make sure we had enough.



Anyway, we used two cardboard toilet paper rolls per sword. Cut them in half, glued them back together (to make a larger roll). Then I hot glue gunned that onto a strip of cardboard and taped it for reinforcement. Finally, we used the 3M sticky things to stick the completed weapons racks to the doors of the girls rooms, so their swords are easy to access.


Not sure where that other cutlass is gone, but Rachel Bunny also fits well in the rack. Handy.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Pumpkin Pride

This is the pumpkin from the garden. The first pumpkin. I've also got some Kent Pumpkins growing (one of them is squashing the basil). 


I tried to weigh it, but the only scales we have are kitchen scales that only go up to 5kg. And this pumpkin weighs more than that.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March in Summary

As the end of March draws near, I am more and more aware that I haven't posted this month at all. What's been happening? Has nothing been going on, thus reflected in the low (or should I say, non-existent?) post count? Or is the reality far more positive; I've been doing so much that I haven't had time to post. Not just "doing so much" but rather, "living so much". So I guess it's a good thing if I haven't posted, for that second reason, that is. And in this case, I feel it is true.


March started with four wonderful days away at the coast. Our annual sojourn to the northern beaches, where we enjoyed the sand, sun and splashing in the waves. We visited the Queensland Air Museum, we read books, we played with the kids. So often I just lay and looked up at the sky and thought: "How lucky we are to be alive right now." Thank you God for this rest, and the beauty of the world you have made for us.

Not only that, but to be there with friends, who's kids get to grow up with our girls, is just priceless. We are inexplicably blessed by these guys, and the memories we make every year as our kids grow is indescribable.

Photo credit to Wade.
I've been slogging away on my through my TAFE work and I'm happy to say that the end is near! 160 pages of prac journal plus supporting documents and four hours with Corinne who is an absolute gift from God, and I'm ready to submit that bad boy. Only two supplementary workbooks to go. The goal is to get them done before my parents take off for their next trip around the world, but hopefully I'll knock them over in the holidays. The end is near, I tell you, the end is near!


We have just come back from our church camp. For those playing along at home, we have officially changed churches and now attend St Lucia Bible Church. I was actually moved to tears at the camp to see the people from three different congregations (morning, afternoon and evening) mixing together and, more than that, to see people from all generations having a great time. From old to young. Even now I'm feeling a tightness in my throat as I remember it. This is what God's kingdom is supposed to look like, and I just had a glimpse of it.

Our garden is growing growing growing! Mostly it's pumpkins, but everything else has made it past the obscene heat wave that was January and February and is now thriving as the weather cools off. Herbs, limes, lemons, raspberries, blueberries, mandarins, pumpkins, it's all go! I can't believe this, but we actually have more than one type of pumpkin growing (thanks to the compost), and have pumpkins for the first time! We have had pumpkin vines before but no fruit. Steve is already dreading the amount of pumpkin-flavoured meals that await the not too distant future, but I'm excited.


And we grew it ourselves. That's the best part.


It's not all good news in the garden. I know it sounds like it's all roses, but there are casualties too. Some things have died for no real reason, mostly just plants that don't have any food value, so it's not so heart breaking. The worst is the capsicum plants. After the Great October Garden Makeover of 2016, only one of the two transplanted capsicums survived. The one that has made it, looked like it was going great guns, nice green leaves, new shoots, growing strongly. It even put out loads of little flowers and buds, so many that I even took to plucking some off so the poor plant didn't over do itself.

Alas, though it grew at least ten or twelve capsicums, all of them have rotted on the tree. Not because I didn't pick them in time, but for some other unknown reason. Honestly, I haven't investigated it, so hopefully it's curable. Otherwise I'll just have to start again.

I've been doing other, rather unproductive, things in March too. Like watching Taiwanese dramas. This is not something I would recommend to anyone. Such a waste of time. After the last one, where I watched 40 episodes in 6 days (I was skipping parts, just so you know, and also doing things while I watched (washing up etc), so it's not all bad, just mostly bad) I was glad of the break. I think maybe I'm too task oriented to be trusted with any kind of long term TV series investment.


I've taken the kids to Lone Pine, Rocks Riverside Park, GOMA, the Science Centre (to see the turtles hatch!), the State Library. We have played with cardboard boxes, play dough, coloured in, made pizza's, cooked endless things in the sandpit and kitchen outside. Hugo loves to be a monster and chase the girls around. Sophie loves kindy, and has made a number of friends, including a little girl called Sophia Grace. Their friend Hadley, refers to them as "the Sophs".



I make lunches. Lunches with sushi, sandwiches, cheese, veggies and fruit. Lunches that get eaten and sometimes don't. That's ok, because you can't win them all.


People ask me all time, if I've cut my hair. No. It's just long enough to be annoying now, so I have to put it up. I'm seriously perplexed as to how people look at my hair that has been braided, and think that it's been cut. Maybe it's because they don't have curly hair.... Who knows. On a completely unrelated note, I've seen Beauty and the Beast twice already, and have plans for a third time (contrary to Steve's beliefs, there were lots of people that wanted to go with me). I think it's fabulous.


Now, the holidays draw closer, as does my birthday, and I look to April with excitement. Easter is nearly here! So March, with this one post, thank you. You have been wonderful, and I enjoyed living through you.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Is This All I do?

I look at the weeks and there must be more, but it honestly seems that this is all I do: make lunches. I wonder if that's ok. Probably, though my task-driven productive self longs for something else to prove I've been useful. It's good to know that keeping children alive also counts as something useful, so even though I don't have much to post about, I do have alive children. 


More sushi in this lunch, egg and avocado. I tried to do mini cucumber ones, but I'm not sure they turned out. Soy chips, grapes, grape tomatoes and peach.


Pizza scrolls! Again something you can make ahead and keep in the freezer. These ones are lazy ones, because instead of making the dough myself, I just used puff pastry. Not quite as healthy. Oh well, at least the insides are veggie packed and healthy. It's easy to just make extra spaghetti sauce and then keep it aside for this kind of thing, and I always hide veggies in spaghetti sauce. Dried apricots, grapes, pepitas, popcorn and yogurt.


I found a box of healthy crackers that was about to go out of date in the cupboard, so that's why these appear in this lunchbox. There is cream cheese in the middle for the girls to spread on the crackers. Grapes, grape tomatoes and capsicum, carrot and cucumber sticks. There is also a chocolate biscuit too. Just a little bit of unhealthy for an otherwise very virtuous lunch.


Mini hot dogs! These were so easy and look fabulous. There is sauce and grated cheese under the cheerios. The buns are just dinner rolls. Cucumber and carrot sticks, mini tomatoes, mushroom slices (in Rachel's lunchbox only, because Sophie wouldn't have a bar of them), grapes and pineapple pieces.

In the middle is a little treat that Sophie and I made for Valentines day. I saw a thing on the internet somewhere of heart shaped treats made out of puff pastry with jam in them and hundreds and thousands on the outside. They looked easy and cute. The problem, when Sophie and I went to make them, was that we had no jam or hundreds and thousands. We did have chocolate sprinkles and frozen berries though, so I mixed the frozen berries with icing sugar and used that instead. They turned out like little hearts and tasted good, but don't look anywhere near as appealing as what they were supposed to be.


Do you want to eat a snowman? I know I do! My sister has a Japanese student with her at the moment who showed me a picture of a bento her mum made for her last day of school, including rice balls that looked like Olaf from Frozen. So easy to do, so I did it!



You can see the subtle differences between Sophie and Rachel's lunches here. That mini hot dog that's been cut in half was actually left over from Rachel's lunch box the day before. I cut the grape tomatoes in half and then put them back together like hearts just for fun. Sophie has another of those Valentine's Day puff pastry things while Rachel has some olive dip. Apples, capsicum, cucumber and grapes and it's a yummy lunch.


I don't know why this lunch looks so boring.... it just seems to white. Meh. Rice thins and cream cheese to spread on, carrots (Rachel had capsicum), pepitas and crasins, grape tomatoes, boiled egg, grapes and pineapple pieces.


If the last box looked too white, this box looks too red to me. What's going on!? Rachel's at least (below) looks a little more balanced. Cheerios cut like octopi, cheese sticks, veggi quiche thingy from the freezer (I know they didn't really eat them last time, but I had some left and I needed to fill the lunch box), onigiri with a Pokemon cut out (I got a set from my sister's Japanese student - so cool, though I think a bit wasted on my not-Pokemon-aware children), apples, watermelon and homemade custard (I've nothing against bought custard, but I had lots of eggs and milk, so I thought I'd make my own for fun).


Rachel just has grapes rather than a second octopus, because I know she will be flat out even eating one. To make those cool cheerio octopi, you just cut the bottom half of the cheerio into legs, then "cook" them in hot water and they just magically spread out. If I were really Japanese I would have given them eyes, but I am not, and I couldn't be bothered pretending. 


I have been missing my Japanese family and Japan more than usual lately. In the last three weeks we have had Japanese dinners at least eight times. Maybe making bento is another way I'm just trying to feed my nostalgia.