Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 21: luminarium!

The kids inside Levity III at the AWESOME Festival:

Evie had white cardboard angel wings on, which looked really cool. She said they were owl wings, though. "Owl! fly fly!"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 19: 5 things to do in Perth this weekend

19 November

Joondalup Upmarket
6-9pm, Central Walk, Joondalup

Buy handcrafted Christmas gifts, homewares, clothing and more. Live music and free children's craft activities. On every Friday for five weeks. Visit

Let’s Celebrate Belmont: Movie under the Stars
6.45pm, Garvey Park, Fauntleroy Ave, Ascot

Bring a picnic to see the Disney movie UP! (Rated PG). FREE!
Enq: #9477 7248 or visit

Saturday 20 November

Swan View Show
9-4.30pm, Brown Park, Amherst Rd, Swan View

Agricultural show with a wide range of competitive displays, as well as variety stalls. Adults $8, Conc. $5, children $5, under 5 free. Visit

Sunday 21 November

All Things Bright and Beautiful Open Day
10am-3pm, RSPCA headquarters, 108 Malaga Drive, Malaga

Activities and things to do for animal-loving families, including music, pony rides and tours of the shelter. Adults $5, children $3, family ticket $12 (proceeds to the RSPCA). Visit

19-28 November

The AWESOME International Arts Festival for Bright Young Things
Showcases contemporary art from all around the world. New media, film, animation, contemporary dance, sculpture, installation and theatre are presented in the Perth CBD for young people and their families.
Two FREE events on this weekend and next:
- Levity III. Immerse yourself in the light and colour of the giant inflatable ‘luminarium’. 10am-5pm Saturday, 11am-5pm Sunday, 10am-5pm during the week. Forrest Place, Perth.
- Big Picture, Small People. See the latest animation for young people. Various screening times at the State Library Theatre and Northbridge Piazza. See website for times.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 18: in the garden

We're having a hot spell here in Perth, but that means I have water from the air-conditioning with which to water the plants. I set a bucket up under the downpipe and it gives me enough for most of these potted plants.

More blueberries. We've been picking four or five ripe ones each day, just enough for us each to pop one in our mouths, yum.

A little baby strawberry :) The kids are very excited about these.

The beans are a-climbing!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 16 - happy face biscuits

250g butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar (forgot to weigh this for proper Thermomix conversion)
2 eggs
few drops vanilla extract
4 cups/530g plain flour
jam for filling


1. Cream together butter and sugar (Thermomix: 30 seconds or so at speed 4)
2. Beat in eggs and vanilla (Thermomix: about 15 seconds at speed 4)
3. Stir in the flour and mix to a fairly soft dough (Thermomix: add the flour in batches and incorporate until a dough is formed)
4. Turn onto a floured board and knead gently (Thermomix: 30 seconds at interval speed)
5. Roll out to 3mm thickness and cut into rounds. From half of these, cut out eyes and mouth.
6. Place on greased baking sheets and bake at 190 degrees for about 15 minutes or until golden-brown. Leave on the baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
7. When cool, spread biscuits with jam and sandwich together.

Based on a recipe from a very old Margaret Fulton cookbook.

Alastair helped me make these. The faces are a bit wonky and therefore creepy-looking, don't you think? We also didn't roll out the dough quite thin enough, and used quite a large round cutter, so there's a LOT of biscuit in these.

However, they sure are yummy! There's nothing like making food with happy faces on for a feel-good activity :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bargains at late-night shopping - Day 15

49c for a 500g punnet of strawberries! I bought four ... I did leave two for other shoppers. ;)

Amazingly, only ONE berry in the 2kg had to be thrown out. About a quarter were good enough to eat whole and are in the fridge for the kiddies, and the other 1.5kg are chopped up in the freezer, ready for smoothies, icypoles, muffins and anything else fun I think of.

Today I also had about 5 litres of milk to use up. People have been sick this week, and we get 10L delivered each week - delivery day is tomorrow. So tonight I've made 1.5L of vanilla ice-cream, a batch of vanilla custard, a batch of chocolate custard, and I've currently got yogurt going and am about to make mini-frittatas before heading to bed. Alastair and I also baked some yummy biscuits, but I'll save those for tomorrow's post.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Changing rooms ... Day 14

... we spent today switching furniture between rooms. If you haven't seen my house, you'll have very little idea of how tricky it was. Let me paint a picture: Federation-era semi-detached duplex half. Three large rooms at the front, long corridor - not terribly narrow but we've lined it with bookshelves. Therefore moving large pieces of furniture required moving some other stuff outside temporarily and being very careful around corners.

Previously, we had our bedroom at the front, all three children in the largest room, and Garry had his office in the third, which also had a sofa-bed. Our living area is tiny, and the kids would all end up there all day, which didn't bode well for the summer holidays. And the office didn't get used most of the day, while Garry was at work.

So we shifted his desk into our bedroom (which required moving one wardrobe out), and moved Emma's stuff into the third room. Now she has her own room, with a sofa-bed, and hopefully they'll get on each other's nerves less. Garry is often working after I go to bed, so hopefully we can manage like this until we extend.

Does anyone else live in a small space - or relatively small given the number of people in your family? How do you make it work for you?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

5 things to do with your kids in Perth this weekend

(And they won't break the bank either.)

Friday 12 November:

Turning on the Christmas Lights
7pm, Forrest Place, Perth.

Free! Check out the giant Christmas Tree in Forrest Place, towering at more than 13 metres tall and decked out with more than 2000 lights, and the arrival of Santa to switch the lights on. Enquiries: 9461 3368 or visit

Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 November:

Perth Heritage Days
All around the city

Free! Celebrate the heritage of our capital city. A huge range of activities are planned for the whole family, including:
- Horse and cart rides around the city
- Open day with rides on vintage fire engines, displays and a water pumping competition.FESA Education and Heritage Centre, Old Central Fire Station, cnr Murray & Irwin Sts, Perth.
- Archaelogical activities at Government House, St Georges Tce, Perth.
- Story-telling and children’s activities at the Royal Perth Hospital museum, Wellington St, Perth.
- Children’s activities at the City of Perth Library, Law Chambers (lower floor), 573 Hay St, Perth.
For a full schedule of events, visit

Telethon Kids Carnival
10am-5pm, Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre

A variety of children’s rides, including a bouncy castle, ferris wheel, aqua bubble and rollercoaster, along with face painting, balloon-twisting and other entertainment. All rides included in entry fee (bargain!!). $5 per person. Enquiries: #9344 0754 or visit

Sunday 14 November:

Castledare Miniature Railway Family Fun Day
Castledare Place, Wilson.

Activities include two bouncy Castles (one for special needs children), face painters, Faerie Cara, an animal nursery, raffles, unlimited train rides (shoes must be worn) and a sausage sizzle. Adults $10, children $5. Bookings essential: 0402 505 767 or 0413 434 669.

Little Feet Festival
1pm-5pm, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup

Free! With the theme ‘Feel the Rhythm’, learn about song, music and dance. Live music with interactive workshops and jam sessions. Adults can also browse the Junior Upmarket on-site. Enq: #9400 4705 or visit

I'm hoping to share these lists regularly, let's just say this kind of information-gathering is my job :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 9 - blogging on blogging

I am reading an interesting discussion on one of my favourite birth/parenting forums, about whether some of the 'big' mommy-bloggers are, well, keeping it real, I guess. You know, the ones where there are always pictures of the huge numbers of crafts these mamas churn out, their perfect children and their perfect houses. How do they DO that?

As you can tell from my intermittent blogging, I can't do that! I am 'real'. Still, I don't show you photos detailing the extent of my messy house. I have a LiveJournal for that! It is mostly friends-only for that reason. I suppose this blog, if I kept it up properly, would be my public persona. I don't pretend to be someone I'm not, but I also leave out some of the bad bits. The very reason this blog is titled 'Surprisingly Domestic' is because I never expected to be domesticated at all! I love sewing, but rarely get time to do it. I cook, but mostly just to feed my family. And I don't think I will ever manage to maintain my house clean or organised.

I think most of the blogs I read are pretty real. I also read the 'perfection' ones, which gives me something to aspire too, I suppose.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 8 - Kitchen

I thought I would share a 3D drawing of what my new kitchen will look like ... eventually. If you could see what I work with now, you would understand why this is so exciting!

Sorry for the poor-quality photos. This shows the whole extension/renovation that will hopefully take place. Where the ensuite and laundry are in the drawing, that's my current kitchen. Beyond the 'family' room in that drawing, is now only a lean-to with laundry, bathroom and toilet. The family room currently has four doors, so it just doesn't work. (It's a semi-detached duplex half, hence the other house you can see to the right-hand side.)

I will have a linen cupboard! And a pantry! Cupboard space! And a bathtub.

Where'd Day 7 go?

Damn. Only a week in and I missed a day!

In my defence, I was up until 3am finalising my work submission for the month, and baking 32 cupcakes, among other things.

I will write a proper post this evening.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Happy birthday to Emma! - Day 6

It is my elder daughter's birthday today. Eight years old. Where does the time go? We had plans for a nice park party, possibly the last time as she might feel too grown-up for that next year. However, bureaucratic squabbles meant the new playground didn't open in time and we had a party at the local swimming pool instead, which was fun, but I get mentally exhausted trying to watch children at the pool.

I baked cupcakes to avoid having to slice a cake. I get a bit of an inferiority complex at school birthday parties - almost everyone brings bought/professional cakes. Still, Emma liked them and the kids all ate them, so I think I did ok.

Basic chocolate cupcakes with piped buttercream icing. The sprinkles and yellow food colouring are both all-natural and found at the supermarket - Nemar natural 100s and 1000s (my local Coles doesn't stock these, but my local IGA does) and Queen natural food colouring (found at Coles).

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 5 - 5 good things about today

I've been feeling rather wallow-y this week. So here are five good things about today, the fifth day of the week AND the month.

1. Walking around the park with my big-little boy and his kindy class (and the rest of the school) for the school walk-a-thon.

2. Rain. Only a little, but still nice for this time of year.

3. Getting a reasonable amount of work done today.

4. Getting house plans for our extension from the builder. Now I'm dreaming of a linen cupboard, a full-sized bathtub, a second bathroom, double-door pantry, 900mm oven, and actual cupboard space in my kitchen. Not to mention living space where we don't constantly trip over each other. Fingers crossed the costing comes in under budget! At the moment we have 2 bedrooms, a study/office/junk storage room, tiny kitchen, small & awkward dining-living area, and the wet areas in a dodgy old lean-to extension. There's not a lot of room on the block for expansion (we can't afford to go up at this stage), but this is quite cleverly designed and eliminates some awkward spaces we have now.

5. Today is my big girl's last day of being seven years old!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 4

I'd like to post that I've achieved something so far this month, but I haven't.

Alastair has had both his school days off sick this week. He's going to school tomorrow, but Evie has to stay home from daycare. She's not acting sick but has spots of some sort so, since chicken pox is going around, I'm keeping her home to be safe.

Today, Garry was home sick too.

My deadline is on Monday. Emma's birthday is on Saturday, as is her party. I need 30 cupcakes for school on Monday, and 15 for the party. The in-laws are coming to visit on Sunday for E's birthday and the house is a mess even by my standards. Breaaaaaaathe.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Public transport and children (Day 3)

I read an interesting article today.

Why public transportation is good for kids

[...] My husband, Adam, and I live in Seattle, in a (somewhat) dense, (fairly) walkable neighborhood. We have two children, ages nine months and (as of today) three years. We enjoy books and brunch and basketball. (Actually, we enjoyed basketball before David Stern and Clay Bennett stole our team, but that's a topic for a different column.) We visit the Science Center and the Children's Museum and, weather permitting, lots of beaches and parks. We attend church on Sundays. We practically live at the library. Oh, and we don't own a car. On purpose.[...]

It's an American article, but applicable to many of us living in suburban Australia. Obviously access to decent public transport is a privilege, but I've sampled the public transport systems in Sydney, Brisbane/the Gold Coast and Adelaide, and have extensive experience of Perth's public transport system, and I would venture to say that most people in most suburbs have enough access to public transport to use it occasionally, at the very least. The more people use it and demand better services, by the way, the more likely we are to get better services.

Some points the author made that I really liked, or drove home a point:

- Cars discourage exercise. If I could hop in a car and drive whenever I felt like it, I probably would, even if I had good intentions. Since I don't have that option, the children and I get our 30 minutes of physical activity a day just doing the school runs. A short return trip on public transport with 5-10 minutes' walk at each end equals 20 to 40 minutes of walking without going out of your way.

- Air inside cars has significantly higher concentrations of carbon monoxide than the air directly outside of them.

- Cars are more deadly than any disease or other threat, and far more dangerous than buses or trains. When traveling to school, a child is eight times safer on a bus -- even without belts or boosters -- than in a car. Even when you factor in extremely rare instances of crime on transit, buses are still the safest way to travel on American roads. (I'm sure the statistics here are not vastly different.) This is a huge one for me. I've been flamed on the internet before for taking my kids in a taxi, occasionally, when we get 'stuck' somewhere, without carseats. Flamed by people who, without even thinking about it, put their children in the car for at least ten journeys a week (thinking of an average schooling family who drives to school, this doesn't even allow for weekend or evening outings). Obviously, both of these situations have risks, but at least I make this decision - maybe once every few months - aware of the risks and having exhausted other options.

On a lighter note, most of the time the public transport trips are great fun for my kids. Sometimes it's a challenge, sure, but this is often due more to poorly planned elements of the transport system, rudeness from fellow passengers, or rudeness from bus drivers, rather than simply the fact that we are not in a car. And in a few years, I'll be able to send the kids off on the bus by themselves, a long time before they'll be able to drive themselves! (And $50 on a SmartRider electronic bus/train ticket will go a lot further than $50 worth of petrol, let alone the costs of purchasing and maintaining a car, so I can give them the financial means to greater independence, too.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 2

I was going to try and actually do something interesting to post about, but Alastair is home sick so instead I'll share a picture of him asleep on the couch:

He almost never falls asleep during the day - it's a sure sign he's not well. That and the fact he feels like I could fry an egg on his forehead. I did manage to find a thermometer and take his temperature on Sunday evening: 39.4 degrees. I haven't treated it because he isn't actually acting very unwell, and isn't complaining of pain. So I will let the fever do its work. That and I think I threw out our bottle of children's Nurofen because it expired: that's how little we use it. Obviously I'd go and buy some if he needed it, and luckily for me there's a 24-hour chemist 10 minutes down the road.

Half of me is a little concerned it may be chicken pox. We had a suspected case at kindy the week before last, apparently it is hard to diagnose in a vaccinated child (as the child in question is) because it presents differently. None of my children are vaccinated for chicken pox, so we'll see. I keep checking his back and tummy for spots.

Here's a cute one of Evie, she was wearing her Hallowe'en costume, but you can't really see it. I made her ladybug wings that just go on like a cape - red velour from my stash, with black spots from scraps of the skirt I cut down for Emma's costume. Then she just wore red and black clothes. She was eating a dog bone meringue at our local bakery.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Thanks to the inspiring examples of Emma @ My House Smells Like Vanilla - who brought up the idea of NaNoBloMo - and April @ A Day in the Life, who did Blogtober, I am going to attempt to blog every day this month.

So, what's happening?

1. I've also signed up to Wardrobe Refashion this month, as we're trying to rein in the budget and I keep buying new clothes for the children. NO new clothes for the kiddos or me for two months. They have heaps, so I don't know how much refashioning I'll need to do, but I do need a pair of shorts, which I am going to attempt to make from scratch.

2. I made/improvised the children some costumes for Hallowe'en. We don't really *do* it here, but there were a couple of free local kids' events on, so I figured why not? The costumes cost me a total of about $6 and we gained a couple more items for the dress-up box. Pics to follow!

3. Christmas is coming. I need to make a pudding and cake soon, the old-fashioned way where you leave them to rest for well over a month. Most of the presents for the kids are either already hiding at home or on lay-by, so we're not doing too badly there.

4. I have a deadline for a 5000-word calendar, next Monday. Hmmm, this working from home thing is trickier than I thought.

One post down, 29 to go!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yum, yum!

This afternoon we nibbled on some blueberries from the garden. We only have one small, young bush, so it's not exactly a harvest, but there are a handful ripening at a time, which is very exciting for the little ones. Maybe I should get some more of these (the Nellie Kelly variety) as it's so rare for me to grow anything successfully! Although, looking at that website now, possibly my efforts were helped by our unusually cold winter this year.

Currently, I have yogurt cheese draining on my kitchen bench. We get 10L of raw milk a week, and I think this will be a good way of using up any left over at the end of the week. Some weeks we use it all easily, others, like this week, we have quite a bit left over. I'm planning on using it where I'd use cream cheese or ricotta - both of which are pretty expensive if using a whole tub, so that's another advantage.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A great giveaway

(Not on my blog, someone else's.)

Check out the giveaway over here at Handmade by Carolyn to celebrate her one-year 'blogoversary'. Carolyn hails from my fair city of Perth, and I admire her style and the garments she churns out seemingly effortlessly! One day I aspire to be able to sew so much of my wardrobe myself.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Efforts at gardening

I am a really bad gardener, but I do try. At our house, it is very frustrating trying to do so. The soil is extremely poor, and the layout doesn't work for me at all. Plus, there are a couple of large overhanging trees that we need to get professionally trimmed, so there is insufficient sunlight in most areas (nice and shady to sit in summer, however).

The kids and I have been trying to grow a few things in pots instead. I will try and get the garden landscaped when we have sorted out renovating the house (hah! So maybe never at the rate we're going).

Here are our results, in this lovely spring weather.

Alastair's dwarf lemon tree:

It's really dried out over the past few weeks and I need to nourish the soil.

Emma's blueberry bush:

A little pot of mint:

Friday, September 24, 2010


from Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, that isn't MY blancmange. Mine didn't set nearly so firm; I don't think I left it in the fridge for long enough (5 hours or so). However, it was delicious!

We've been getting deliveries of raw milk and thus I've been looking for easy recipes that use up milk if we've still got a lot left towards the end of our week. I'm also trying to use it for desserts to avoid buying commercially-made ones. I remember my mum making blancmange, but I had never tried.

Blancmange (recipe originally from here)

600ml milk
4 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornflour
Vanilla essence

Blend cornflour with a litle of the milk.
Place the rest of the milk in a saucepan and bring to boiling point.
Add sugar and blended cornflour, stirring well the whole time.
Place over heat and boil for 2-3 minutes.
Flavour with vanilla essence then pour into a wet mould.

Or, instead of all of the above, just put all the ingredients in the Thermomix for 9 minutes at 90 degrees on speed 4, then pour into the mould.

Place in fridge to set.


I called it "milk jelly" and the kids loved it. I might try reducing the sugar by a tbsp next time, as it was plenty sweet enough.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Note to self

... you're an idiot sometimes. When I was talking about the Taga being hard to ride up hills, it turns out that it was user error. All three of my tyres were under-inflated. On Tuesday I rode up to a bike shop because we needed a new pump anyway, and I needed a properly-fitted helmet. I knew the single wheel (front in stroller mode, back in bike mode) needed inflating, but I thought the other two were okay. WRONG! The nice man in the bike shop fixed me up and inflated them all properly for me. I felt a little like I was playing the helpless woman, but really I was just the clueless bike n00b, my gender was irrelevant.

The ride home was a heck of a lot easier than the ride there. D'oh! It is now also much smoother, which meant when Evie fell asleep she was pretty comfortable.

So thanks to Greg Stoyles Cycles for helping me out (although that Yellow Pages map is wrong, it's Walter Road WEST, right near Sizzler, not over past Tonkin Hwy).

In other proof of my idiocy, I got the wrong day for my hair appointment - the other reason I went out that way - so I got to ride the 12km (6km each way) again on Wednesday!

Monday, September 20, 2010


Here's a poor-quality phone pic of my new toy:

It's a Taga bike/stroller and it is very cool. My legs, however, unaccustomed to cycling, are finding it tough going.

The pros:

- 3-wheel design makes it very easy for a non-cyclist like me to learn.
- the brakes are very responsive
- Evie is very comfortable in her seat when awake. She loves it and will climb into in the hallway and ask to put her hat (helmet) on!
- I can carry a reasonable amount of shopping underneath if I pack it in carefully. If I purchase it, I'll be investing in the panniers for water bottles etc.
- of course, it converts into a stroller! The conversion is quite easy and Evie can stay in her seat while I do it. This means I can take it into the shops, on the train, or through crowded footpaths where bike riding is not safe.

The cons:

- my giant child. As you can see, the hood won't fit over her helmet. Other people can put their older kids in it, but Alastair (4.5) is much taller than the seat. This would be a problem in bike trailers and other child-carrying devices too. I just don't grow petite children.
- when she's asleep, her head bobs a bit ... but I think most child bike seats/cargo bikes would have this problem too.
- I'm having trouble getting up hills and am not sure if this is due to my lack of fitness or the bike only having three gears (probably a combination of the two).

So far I think it is a really fantastic concept, and well-executed to boot. I'm hoping that in a few weeks I'll really have gotten the hang of it, and that I can justify purchasing it!

*Disclaimer: I am on Taga's ambassador program, which means I am trialling the bike for 4 weeks for a refundable deposit, after which I may purchase it at a reduced price. However, all opinions expressed are my own true opinions.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Unsurprisingly undomestic

I'm sure that title isn't grammatically correct, but that's how I feel lately. Aside from the lamingtons in my previous post, I've barely baked the last few weeks. Heck, I've barely cooked proper dinners. We're fed, and clothed, and sheltered, but barely.

I landed a new job just before we left for Broome - I am calendar editor for a Perth parenting magazine. It is an awesome job, working from home, doing something that comes quite easily to me. BUT by the time I'd sorted out accepting the job and receiving the relevant documentation, I was just about on holiday. This left me less than two weeks after coming back in which to do the first month's calendar. Being my first, it was obviously more time-consuming than subsequent ones will be. So, that was a little stressful, but it is done.

I have all these brilliant, nerdy ideas of how to completely simplify the calendar compilation process by setting up an Access database. I haven't worked with Access in four years; this should be interesting. Of course, I have a genius programmer for a partner, but, rather like my stubborn two-year-old, I want to Do It Myself. Hopefully, that will mean I am more organised in future months.

The family all conspired to be sick last weekend, too, so I had kids home from school, sheets and carpet covered in vomit, all those fun extra jobs I really needed. Plus we've given up on installing the new dishwasher ourselves, so the kitchen is still drowning in dishes (called a plumber today, hurray).

SO, in all this, I have decided to put Evie in daycare one day a week. I'm hoping this means I can parent her properly on the other six days, instead of constantly trying to get my work done while she competes for my attention. She's just turned two; I figure it's worth a try and if she doesn't enjoy it, I will work out another way.

One piece of exciting news: I am expecting my Taga bike/stroller next week. I've been accepted as an Ambassador, which means I get to trial it for a refundable deposit on the condition that I promote it by riding at least 7 hours a week and wearing a branded T-shirt, among other things. Did I ever say I wouldn't sell myself for a good cause? Stay tuned for photos and reviews!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


So, I have a work deadline tomorrow, a cold, three demanding children, and a house in chaos. When asked to bring something for a school shared lunch tomorrow, do I take the easy route and buy something?

Of course not. I have the bright idea to try making lamingtons for the first time ever.

I followed this recipe. Thank goodness for the Thermomix.

Excuse the poor quality phone photo (you can see the very early stages of my Ill-Fated Socks in the background).

I must say, they're quite tasty. I had to sample one, just in case they were horrible ;)

I am very excited because I have a new toy coming. Nothing to do with cooking or craft. I'm going to keep you in suspense!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Those dangerous sock knitters

We nearly missed our flight to Broome due to a couple of craft-related miscalculations on my part.

Firstly, Emma had some homework to do, so I told her to just throw her school pencilcase in her carry-on bag. Forgetting she had scissors in there. D'oh. Goodbye scissors.

Secondly, being aware of recently relaxed regulations allowing passengers to take knitting needles on board, I thought "Yahoo!" and packed a knitting project bag with some socks I was about to start.

Socks. Knitted on nice, pointy, thin, metal, Addi double-pointed needles. Put bag through security. "Uh, ma'am, what are these?"

"Knitting needles."

"Um. I'm going to have to check with someone."

"Oh. Okay." [thinking: Shit. They've probably never seen these and think of chunky straight needles for knitting basic scarves, when they think knitting needles. Shit. Those are expensive needles. The flight has started boarding!*]

After calling over a couple more people, they finally determined that I wasn't planning to stab someone with these pointy objects and let us through.

Needless to say, I packed them in the checked baggage for the return flight. I should also add that I got horribly tangled when winding a ball from the skein, and it took me so long to untangle, that I never got to start the damn socks anyway.

* I'm not an idiot. We got to the airport in heaps of time considering we checked-in online. Unfortunately the Virgin bag-drop line seemed to take longer than the actual check-in line, so we ended up almost late!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Surprisingly relaxing ...

... a holiday to Broome with three children.

We stayed at Captain's by the Bay, a gorgeous boutique complex of self-contained apartments. It's about halfway between Town Beach (the smaller beach on the Roebuck Bay side of the peninsula, as opposed to the touristy Cable Beach) and the town centre/Chinatown precinct. This meant we could walk to either of those in about 15 minutes.

I've seen a lot of travel reviews saying that one really needs a car to get around Broome. I disagree. As I said, we walked to both Town Beach and to Chinatown. When we wanted to go to Cable Beach, we used the excellent, privately-run Town Bus service. Children travel free with their paying parent/s! The bus comes every 30 minutes, which is very convenient. That said, we did hire a car on our last full day, because the kids really wanted to go to the Malcolm Douglas Wilderness Park, about 20km out of Broome itself. We visited the Mango Place while we were in the 10 Mile/12 Mile district, and drove to Cable Beach again afterwards to do an afternoon camel ride.

Broome is an expensive place for food, probably because of its isolated location. We found we got better value by eating out for lunch, and making a lighter dinner ourselves at the apartment. We did make an exception for a dinner at Matso's Brewery. Their ginger beer is soooo good (from a non-beer-drinker).

I far preferred the smaller Town Beach to Cable Beach. The red-tinged sand is beautiful, and because it's a bay, the water is clear with only very gentle lapping waves. Therefore the children could paddle out further, and we didn't get sand up our bottoms. There is also a nice cafe down there (reasonably priced for Broome - though beware the erratic opening hours), and the jewel in the crown is a free splash park for the kids.

All in all, we had a great time on our first-ever real holiday!*

* We've been to the Gold Coast and Sydney, but Garry's been working.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Carrot almond muffins with creme fraiche topping

I was waiting to add a photo, but I can't find the camera cable. I hope it shows up before we go on holiday! This is today's baking effort. A Facebook friend commented that it sounds almost healthy - I don't know, there's plenty of sugar and fat, but also carrots, nuts, and eggs for protein ;) And two out of three of my kids don't normally eat carrots ...

Melted butter, to grease (I use good quality silicone bakeware, so I didn't grease]
5 large eggs, separated
170g raw sugar [you could use less if you're happy with a less sweet muffin]
2 tsp finely grated orange rind [just one orange, for simplicity's sake]
3 medium carrots, finely grated [I just gave them a scrub and left the skin on, but I buy organic carrots]
200g almond meal
100g self-raising flour, sifted

About 200g creme fraiche [i.e. what was left in the tub after making mushroom stroganoff the other night]
1 tbsp icing sugar
squeeze of fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Prepare muffin trays - this mix made 14 for me, so I used two individual molds as well as a 12-cup muffin tray.

For Thermomix users, I grated the carrots first, 10 seconds or so on speed 7, rinsed and dried the bowl, and then grated the orange rind. If you're also making your own almond meal, be sure and do that before you start.

Place yolks, sugar & rind in a bowl or mixer and beat until thick & creamy (Thermomix: about 30 seconds on speed 4/5 with butterfly). Add carrot, flour and almond meal, and stir (Thermomix: about 40 seconds on speed 2, reverse).

Place egg whites in a bowl and beat until soft peaks form. If you're doing this in the Thermomix, you'll need to put the mix in another bowl, clean the TMX bowl and make sure it's dry before whipping the egg whites. I was lazy and didn't dry very carefully, so my whites didn't really whip - the recipe still worked.

Fold the egg white into the carrot mixture in two batches. Pour into muffin pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until skewer comes out clean (this is a moist muffin, though, so it won't be completely dry).

To make the creme fraiche topping, whip all ingredients together until soft peaks form. I didn't whip mine thick enough to be an icing as such, I only intended to dollop it over the top like whipped cream.

Based on this recipe.

Meal planning again

Last week I stuck to the plan pretty well, except on Tuesday I left it too late to make the pizza base and ended up ordering pizza instead. Bah. This week I need to get that done in the morning and chuck it in the fridge - and make two extras for the freezer.

Next Sunday morning we are going to Broome - a town up in the north of Western Australia, which enjoys lovely winter temperatures of about 30 degrees Celsius. Bliss. That does mean that I need to use up fresh vegies this week.

Tonight: beef & vegie stir-fry with noodles
Monday: home-made pizza
Tuesday: Roast chicken pieces, roast potatoes, vegies
Wednesday: Leftover chicken with rice and salad
Thursday: osso bucco with pasta and vegies
Friday: vegetable & chickpea curry with rice
Saturday: leftovers or baked beans on toast

Monday, August 2, 2010

What's for dinner?

I am not one of those super-organised supermums. I struggle a lot with feeding my family, as I'm the only one who cooks and my partner often isn't home until after dinner is served; he's certainly rarely home to wrangle the children while I prepare it in peace. For the past few weeks I was really jaded with cooking dinner, and thus didn't plan - big mistake. When will I learn? We ate loads of crap and I was even more jaded because I would have to think of something at five o'clock!

So, I jumped back on the meal planning bandwagon.

This week's dinners will be ...

Sunday: steak and mushroom pie, salad, broccoli, cauliflower
Monday: grilled fish, chips, salad
Tuesday: home-made pizza, garlic bread, carrots, peas
Wednesday: leftovers (there's soup & dhal in the freezer)
Thursday: lamb koftas, couscous, cucumber & red onion salad
Friday: mushroom stroganoff, mashed potato, cauliflower, broccoli
Saturday: Moroccan sweet potato, carrot & chickpea soup, with some sort of bread

And last week's were ...

Monday: pork meatballs in tomato sauce with pasta.
Tuesday: roast chicken, roast potatoes, vegies
Wednesday: chicken fried rice w' leftover roast chicken
Thursday: Evie's birthday, got takeaway
Friday: Moroccan lentil soup, fresh focaccia
Saturday: leftover soup (we had lunch out so ate lots)

Now, the secret to meal planning for me is to be flexible. For instance, I'm thinking tonight (Monday) I might crumb the fish instead of just grilling it, because I have some breadcrumbs in the freezer and, well, I just feel like it. Similarly, I'll often cook different vegies than what I write in the plan. And sometimes I'll swap the days around, especially if we're late home on a day when I'd planned to do something that takes a while to cook. But having the rough plan means that I know what meat to get out of the freezer in the morning (if any); it also means I waste fewer ingredients, like the packet of salad mix I got in my organic box on Friday. I opened it last night and it only lasts a couple of days so I planned it into tonight's meal as well, and had some with the leftover pie for lunch today. Most of all, it means my brain doesn't have to think on the run. It's not so good at that these days.

For those reading who don't know my children - sadly they don't eat most of this multicultural and varied assortment of foods. We're working on it. Evie liked the pastry of the pie last night, and Alastair liked the chunks of meat. Sigh.

What's for dinner at your house this week?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ribbit, ribbit.

Arghhhhhh. I've been slooooowly knitting a Milo vest for Alastair. Size four is a lot of garter stitch in the round, okay? I haven't been getting much knitting time. Last night I was watching Midsomer Murders and finally got to the underarm cast-off part. I completely stuffed up the cable cast-on and didn't realise until I'd done both sides. Alastair has now lost interest in the vest he asked for, so I think this is destined to be frogged, sadly.

He's now asked for a scarf, and picked some nice chunky yarn, so a mindless 2x2 rib scarf on 8mm needles is a lot more do-able in my current state ...

With the time that I haven't been crafting, I have been reading and launching my own direct sales business. I am now an independent Phoenix Trader and sell a range of gorgeous, artist-designed greeting cards, gift wrap and stationery. I can come to you in Perth or you can order online from my webstore.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cooking up a storm!

From this:

to this (and more, but I am not photographing it all):

A friend and her husband took me to the Canning Vale Saturday clearance markets this weekend. I don't drive so it's impossible for me to get to otherwise, and they have no kids and not huge amounts of storage space, so by taking me with them they could split boxes with me. I also supplied the stroller for carrying the boxes!

Apart from it being bloody freezing down there at 7.30am, it was pretty good. I got:

- box of oranges
- box of Pink Lady apples
- box of plums
- half a huge bag of baby spinach, $5
- half a huge bag of basil (I used 250g of leaves to make pesto and still have heaps left)
- half a box of tomatoes (5 kg)
- 2 eggplant
- 2 zucchini
- 2 butternut pumpkins
- 2 leeks

for the grand total of $42 (and I'm only learning - I could've got the apples for cheaper if I'd shopped around at the various stalls better). So far I've cooked up basil & spinach pesto, tomato & basil pasta sauce, roasted tomato passata, plum teacake, plum muffins, beef & barley soup, and pumpkin soup. The kids have eaten a good amount of the apples and I'm going to freeze some according to this method, for making pies/crumbles. I'm going to juice the oranges and freeze in ice cube trays for baking and sorbets. I blanched and froze the rest of the spinach and will use for spinach and ricotta triangles this week. The eggplants are going into eggplant curry tonight and then eggplant pasta sauce for the freezer. I stewed a big batch of the plums and they're in the fridge for snacks/desserts/breakfast (with yogurt for breakfast, custard for dessert). I might make some jam but I need jars first.

Basically this will mean that I have quick healthy lunches and dinners ready when I'm tired. It will reduce our food bill over the next month or so.

I should probably add here that the Thermomix is my best friend ;)

I would definitely recommend these markets if you're in Perth and are able to preserve the produce in some way, and/or buy with friends and use it quickly. Just take a hat and gloves!

Sunday, May 9, 2010


I finished!!

Unfortunately, as you can see from the following photo, I obviously didn't know about checking dyelots way back when I purchased this yarn:

The gauge was also a little off, probably because of the long delay between one sock and most of the next. But, really, socks aren't that tough! I need to take the plunge and get into some of the yummy sock yarn I have.

These were knitted in Cleckheaton Country Silk 8ply (85% wool, 15% silk), to be nice soft warm house socks for winter. I'm wearing them now; they're definitely snuggly.

Today I went through a tub of unfinished projects and ripped out three that I just wasn't going to finish (and in fact I couldn't remember what pattern I was knitting from!), which now leaves me with NO unfinished knitting projects. Meaning I need to cast on for something new ... or get stuck into the sewing projects.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I whipped myself up a pair of pyjama pants tonight because, embarrassingly, I ripped the seat of my old ones, heh. They were getting a bit old :) I'd take a photo, but you don't want to see me in my pyjamas!

The sock is getting there - I hope to proudly announce its completion soon (my feet are getting cold).

Monday, May 3, 2010

I don't think I posted about this boring yet nifty little project I did. Evie's been wriggling out of the 5-pt harness in her carseat. I was going to buy a 'seatbelt wrap' thingy, but they're $15 or so with no guarantee that they'll work.

So I made my own.

It's simply two rectangles of polar fleece, sewn together and turned right way out. Fold in the sides so they meet with about a 1.5cm overlap, and mark where you need to fold it. Sew three rows of strong 1.5inch Touch Tape, hook in the middle and loop on the two sides. Attach four snaps to the overlapping part.


She hasn't managed to get out of it yet. (Oh, and that's her "cheese!" face, not a grimace of pain.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

UFO#1 finished!

Here's UFO #1, a shrug knitted from this pattern. (Warning: link goes straight to a PDF download.)

I even blocked it! I tried to take a photo of it on, but all the mirrors in the house are in shocking locations light-wise:

It was knitted in "Earth Sky" on blue-faced leicester, light aran weight, from The Yarn Cafe/evoke yarns. I knitted a size medium, and the only change I made was to knit a garter stitch border of five stitches on both sides to prevent the edges rolling. It used about 130g of yarn.

Next: the Thuja socks that I started knitting two years ago. I've now made it down to the heel flap on the second sock (wait! Since I saved the draft post I'm on to the foot. Yay!). These will be nice warm house socks for winter.

The problem I can see with having left the second sock so long is that my gauge seems to be a little different; I'm knitting tighter so the sock is a bit smaller. They're stretchy, though, so both will fit and they're only for around the house.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

UFO sightings

(Not of the extra-terrestrial type.)

In some sort of autumn-cleaning madness I remembered I had three boxes/tubs of unfinished sewing and knitting projects that were packed up when I moved house. That's just disgraceful. Suffice to say, I've vowed to get rid of at least one tub ...

... first on the list is a shrug I started knitting in summer. I think I said at the time I'd aim to have it finished for winter, and laughed. Ha ha. It was maybe a third done when I took it out, and I'm 2 rows away from binding off the body. The sleeves are only 4 rounds of ribbing each, so I'm nearly there. I haven't knitted in months; it's a good recreation for those cold evenings. The laundry, where my sewing stuff is set up, is absolutely freezing in winter (think old house with nice thick brick walls except in the lean-to extension where the laundry is!!)

Photos to come when it's finished. Perhaps next I'll pick up the sock that was started two years ago, when I was pregnant with Evie. That's a bad case of second sock syndrome!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pyjama pants and a cardigan refashion

The cold nights of autumn have come upon us suddenly and the kids needed some new pyjama pants. I've got loads of printed flannelette so off I went:

Pirates for Alastair

Duckies for Evie and a girly print for Emma

Puppies for Evie (I cut them upside down to fit into an oddly-shaped fabric remnant. Still, they'll be right way up to her, when she looks down at them!)

Alastair's and Evie's were made from a basic pyjama pants pattern I copied out of a friend's magazine a couple of years ago. Oddly enough, the two of them are about the same size except for leg length (Alastair is 4 and Evie is 20 months)! They both fit in a size two and I just lengthened the leg a lot for Alastair. Both of them still need room for a cloth night nappy, but these are a loose-fitting style.

Emma's I just made by tracing around a pair of her old ones and adding leg length, which is all she ever outgrows. I only JUST squeezed her pair out of a metre of flannelette; she is TALL.

They all wanted to wear them right away, which is always a good sign.

I also took two items off the alteration pile (trackpants for Alastair that used to be Emma's, just tightened the waist elastic, and took the legs up a couple of inches with a long stitch length; easy to let back down as he grows), and accomplished a refashion for myself.

I bought this cardigan (Millers, size L) in an opshop for $5. The chunky knit was what I'd been looking for, and I liked the huge collar thingy and the batwing-style sleeves, but it was too big and bulky. You can't really see all the extra fabric on the sides in the photo. If it had been wool, I'd have shrunk it a bit, but it's acrylic.

I took it in at the sides on an angle, so that instead of fastening all the way down it fastens at the top and then flares out. I've seen cardigans like that in the shops this season and I really like them (but not enough to pay $40 or $50 for one). I took off the extra buttons/press-studs so it looks like it's meant to be like that, and not like it's just too small for me ;)

It still doesn't sit quite right when it's on; I'm considering sewing the little pockets shut to see if that helps. But I'll wear it, and I wouldn't have before. This is the first winter in a while that I'll be really wearing cardigans/jackets, because I don't wear Evie everywhere anymore (winter '06 and '07 I wore Alastair everywhere, winter '08 I was hugely pregnant which kept me warm, and winter '09 I wore Evie everywhere), so my wardrobe is sorely lacking in them.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Daggy dress --> swingin' 50s

OK, OK, long time no post!

I finally cleared myself a craft area and did a little refashioning project. I was after a 50s dress for a themed hen's night this weekend; I scoured the opshops and even the more expensive vintage stores and didn't really find anything. Then I saw this spotty dress calling me and snapped it up without trying it on (because I was sweaty from going for a run, and had Evie with me).

Weeeell, the 'before' pic isn't very promising:

But I noticed the skirt had a decent 'kick' to it down the bottom and thought I could make it into a swingin' 50s rock-and-roll style dress.

I chopped it in half at the weird elasticated waist, and then cut about 4 or 5 inches off the top of the bottom section, keeping the bottom hem intact. I kept the shoulder seams and the neck facings intact (because I hate sewing facings), cut the sleeves off, and cut the top part into a basic darted bodice shape.

First mistake: I cut the back on the front and the front on the back. That's why it has the slightly weird collar - otherwise it was choking me!

I had to add a zip, too, so I cut down one side seam of the top and part of a side seam of the skirt section. The zip was nearly the death of me, and I'll not be lifting my arm much tomorrow night, so no-one can see the mess I made of it!

Added some more darts on the skirt so that it matched up with the width of the bodice, and then joined them together and added the zip.

Finished result:

If only I had the waist of my dress form!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Homemade dishwasher powder (no nasties)

The other night, we ran out of dishwasher tablets. Eeep! I really didn't want to make a special shopping trip for them because I knew I'd end up buying other things, even if only something my three-year-old wanted.

So I did a web search and looked in my pantry and worked with what I had. I mixed together:

1 tbsp citric acid (I originally started keeping this in my pantry when I did the FAILSAFE diet, but as someone without a citrus tree in my backyard, it sure comes in handy)
1 tbsp iodised cooking salt
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda

I used about half a tablespoon of that mix in the dishwasher. I've used it for three nights and the dishes are CLEAN (and not salty). I use vinegar in the rinse aid compartment, always have done.

I don't think I'd mix up a big quantity of this, as it's already starting to clump in the container. Nor do I think I'd use it every night - most reviews of homemade dishwasher powder I've seen claim it works for a while and then a cloudy residue forms on the dishes. But I might start alternating it with the expensive eco-friendlier tablets I normally use, and it's DEFINITELY good stuff to have on hand in a pinch. Otherwise I'd have had to hand-wash the dishes until I got to the shops. Shock, horror! (Seriously, I hate doing dishes.)

Vintage Ad #599: Surf, The Dishwashing Sensation!

Photo licenced under Creative Commons, taken by jbcurio

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Carrot, orange and date loaf (Thermomix)

From the original recipe here. I tried this at a Jamaica Blue cafe the other week and it was delicious, so I came home, searched for the recipe and tried it in the Thermomix. Then tweaked it a little.

Carrot, orange and date loaf


100g wholemeal spelt flour
180g plain (all-purpose) flour
2tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
120g raw sugar
4 eggs
1 orange
70g canola oil
130g plain unsweetened yogurt (mine was home-made in the Thermomix)
1tsp ground cinnamon
280g carrot, peeled and cut into large chunks (that was 4 carrots for me)
100g dates


1. Preheat oven to 180C (170C fan-forced) and lightly grease a loaf tin.
2. Grate carrots for 5 seconds on speed 5. Set aside.
3. Chop dates for 5 seconds on speed 7. Add to carrot.
4. Peel orange and grate the peel (minus pith if possible!) for 8 seconds on speed 7. Add to carrot and dates.
5. Quarter the orange, removing remaining pith. Juice for 20 seconds on speed 8. Pour into a cup.
6. Add remaining ingredients and orange juice to TMX bowl, mix for 20 seconds on speed 5.
7. Add carrots, dates and orange zest. Mix for 20 seconds in REVERSE on speed 4.
8. Pour into prepared tin and bake for about 45-60 minutes until cooked through. It will still appear a little moist on the skewer, I tend to listen to it, if you can hear it bubbling it's not finished yet. Cool for 10 minutes in tin before turning out onto a wire rack.

Tip: Don't worry about cleaning the Thermomix bowl out in between steps, scrape it down as much as you can and leave it at that - it's all going in together.

Friday, January 1, 2010

12 challenges in 2010

Carolyn over at My Favourite came up with this one. January's challenge is something for myself. We're moving in a month, so this WILL be a challenge as the sewing room is kind of buried right now. BUT I really need some new pyjama pants so I'll give it a go early in the month before I pack my stash away.

On a totally unrelated note, last month I bought a Thermomix. I love, love, LOVE it, and hopefully I will post some recipes I've converted for it, soon.

The colour blue - a themed post

Why not? Emma over at My House Smells Like Vanilla came up with this (the "Joyous Blogger" refers to the homebirth site/forum Joyous Birth. The colour blue ...

(I know there's a typo in the button! It should read Jan '10. ;))

So I present, five random things that 'the colour blue' brings to mind.

1. The ocean. I live in Perth, we have gorgeous beaches lapped at by the Indian Ocean. Despite that, I'm really not a beach kind of person. Too sandy, too much sunburn for my weak British skin. It sure does *look* beautiful, though.

2. The song 'Tangled Up in Blue', which is a Bob Dylan song, but is covered by Aussie band The Whitlams on one of their albums. The Whitlams are my favourite band, and I love their version. My partner's a music buff and laughs at me because I'll know the cover versions of songs and not the original (sometimes not even realise they're covers!)

3. Feeling blue. Hmm, doing a bit too much of that lately.

4. Cookie Monster. Told you it was a random list.

5. Blueberries, which of course, aren't really blue. I always thought they should be called purpleberries. Yum. Now I'm thinking I should have bought the punnet of blueberries I decided against at the markets today.