Tuesday, 31 August 2010

When is a PHD not a PHD?

I’m not talking about the academic PhD here (aka Doctor of Philosophy). I’m talking about something I have a lot of experience with – my PHD refers to this:

Projects Half Done.

I have a lot of PHDs. I personally prefer PHDs to UFOs. As we know, a UFO is an Un-Finished Object. It’s a ‘glass half empty’ sort of description, don’t you think? I reckon we need to think more positively – be the ‘glass half full’ type of person. So from henceforth, my UFOs will no longer be UFOs. They will be PHDs.

So back to my question – when is a PHD not a PHD? When it is finished! Yay!!

Here is a PHD that has been sat on my desk for ages, waiting patiently for me to give it some love and attention. It is a zipaway tote – in Amy Butler fabrics.

The outer shell / base is Garden Maze in brown from Amy Butler’s Midwest Modern range. The body of the bag is Full Moon Polka Dot in Camel from Amy Butler’s Lotus range. The handles are a plain quilting cotton in brown.

I didn’t have quite enough of the Full Moon Polka Dot fabric for the facing so I used a strip of the Garden Maze.

I am off to tackle another PHD.
Have a great day, friends.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

A family day out

Mr Crafty Ady and I took Dinoboy and Missy Moo to Stratford-Upon-Avon for the day. Stratford-Upon-Avon is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare. It is also the home of the Stratford-Upon-Avon Butterfly Farm – our main destination on this trip.

We took the train from our local station and it was a quick 40-minute train ride to get to Stratford-Upon-Avon. The kids were very excited – a day trip out is always greatly anticipated and hugely enjoyed.

The Butterfly Farm is a huge greenhouse packed with lush greenery and a lot of butterflies! I didn’t anticipate it being quite so warm and humid – it reminded me of the Malaysian rainforest. We saw lots of gorgeous butterflies ....

Dinoboy made a new little friend who liked his shirt

And we saw even more butterflies ...

We had packed a picnic lunch and since the Butterfly Farm did not have a picnic area, we headed off to the riverside to find a picnic spot.

It was lovely and sunny (albeit with a few clouds here and there)

We did the tourist thing and went on a quick ride in one of the boats. The kids were delighted. The Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre was still having it’s facelift ...

The Butterfly Farm ticket gets you in as many times as you like during the day. Dinoboy wanted to head back there after lunch to see the butterflies one last time before we headed home. On our way back to the train station, we found Shakespeare’s house ...

Apparently his father, John, built it in 1556 and this is the house Shakespeare was born in.

We were pretty lucky with the weather. It didn’t start raining until we were very nearly home. Ooo - and I road-tested my fold-away shopping bag on this trip. It was stuffed with a camera, a change of clothes for Missy Moo (better safe than sorry), wet wipes, bottles of drink, small snacks, a magazine to entertain Missy Moo on the train in case she decided that looking out of the window was too boring and other small necessities. It coped very well and the wide handles made it comfortable to sling over my shoulder. I shall start working on my tutorial soon.

Hope your weekend is going great, friends.

Friday, 27 August 2010

The fold-away shopping bag project

I have been playing around with a pattern for a fold-away shopping bag. It has a gusset in the side like those plastic carrier bags you get at the supermarket which makes it a lovely roomy bag for carrying your groceries about it.

I used this lovely brown decorator-weight curtain fabric I had in my stash. The edges at the top of the bag are finished with bias binding and it has this little flap which closes the top up a bit.

It’s a good sturdy bag which folds up into this neat little pouch-like thing when you don’t need it. Cute, huh?

I used poppers set with my Pyrm Vario pliers. I wasn’t sure how much strain the fabric would take with these poppers in so I sewed small squares of fabric on the reverse sides to reinforce the closure points before setting my poppers in. I’m rethinking the closures and looking at other possibilities like self-cover buttons and an elastic loop or even sew-in poppers.

I’ll work out the wee issues I have with this bag before turning out a tutorial.

It’s the long August Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK with Monday 30 August being a bank holiday for us. A bank holiday is a public holiday and this one held on the last Monday in August is the last bank holiday before Christmas and the last one before the start of the school year. Local schools in my area will resume for the new academic year next week. Mr Crafty Ady and I are taking DinoBoy and Missy Moo on a day trip to the Butterfly Farm in Stratford-Upon-Avon tomorrow. DinoBoy has been before and he’s very excited. Missy Moo is very excited too and was loudly reciting the animals she hopes to see tomorrow (including giraffes, lions, elephants, tigers and snakes). She will be sorely disappointed as it is just a butterfly farm – so the only creatures we’ll see are butterflies, other bugs and arachnids.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

My creative space

I’ve been playing about with another fold-away shopping bag. I’m almost done with it ... just a lot of bias-binding to sew on now. This one has no zips but has poppers. I’ll show it to you when I am done. I’m probably going to make a tutorial for this as I have been taking some photos along the way.

Elsewhere in my space, UFOs lurk still and the granny shrug project is crawling along at a snail’s pace.

Find other lovely spaces here at Kootoyoo’s blog.

Wishing you a wonderfully creative day, friends.

Wordless Wednesday - all that's left of summer?

Monday, 23 August 2010

More green, anyone?

Following on from my green Malaysian baked pudding of sorts a couple of weeks ago, I decided I was going to try to make some more green edibles from my homeland. One of my friends actually made this for me last week (thanks Bee!) and introduced me to the recipe. This is Kueh Dadar – it is a pandan and coconut flavoured pancake filled with a sweet coconut mixture.

The recipe can be found here.

I substituted dessicated coconut for the grated coconut in the recipe. I also didn’t have any palm sugar (gula melaka) in my store cupboard. Instead I used dark brown soft sugar (I used this one).

I didn’t have fresh pandan / screwpine leaves so I used the same paste I used beforefor my Kueh Bakar. I think it worked out rather well. The crepes are made from a pancake batter made with coconut milk and pandan essence. There’s no sugar in the batter. The coconut filling was rich and sweet, making it the perfect filling for the fragrant crepes.

This is a surprisingly easy Malaysian kueh to make. And it is very yummy indeed.

Have a great week ahead friends.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A wonderful surprise from a faraway land

I recently started corresponding with a fellow blogger named Clair. Clair, who blogs at Tea & Bickies lives in Victoria, Australia. She is funny, talented (you totally need to see her anime quilt – it’s awesome!) and so very generous.

When I saw Clair’s anime quilt on her blog, I asked her about the anime fabrics she used and where she might have gotten them from. I was only familiar with Alexander Henry’s Thunder Flower fabric - having bought some last year. Clair said that she had been collecting them for years and some were out of print.

Clair asked for my snail mail address and said she’d pop a few small bits into the post for me. It’s been crazy busy at work of late and I had completely forgotten about Clair’s offer until the postman left me a card one day to say that he’d try to deliver a package whilst I was out at work and it would not fit through my postbox so please could I collect it from the local sorting office.

I picked it up on my way to work the next day and opened it as soon as I got back to my car. Clair’s ‘few pieces’ turned out to be almost a dozen amazing pieces of fabric, a few cute metal zip pulls and a gorgeous purple dragonfly keyring. I was so surprised, so very touched and astonished by the generosity of this amazing woman whom I have not met in person and had only corresponded by email with.

Here’s what she sent me:

How cute are those Betty Boop pieces?! And check out these lovely ladies – I’m going incorporate these two pieces into a tote bag for myself.

And here are the anime print fabric pieces Clair sent me.

There was a piece of the Thunder Flower fabric in blue in there too which I didn’t take a photo of. I haven’t the foggiest idea of what I am going to make from these gorgeous pieces of anime fabric – I might take my cue from Clair and make a quilt (albeit a mini one) out of them ... not sure yet.

One of the pieces Clair sent me was this one which has these cute illustrations with such funny quotes on them.

I am so thrilled with these pieces of fabric. It was such a wonderful surprise parcel to get in the post.

Thank you so much Clair. *Hugs*

Thursday, 19 August 2010

My creative space

There is a lot of stuff going on at work at the moment. It’s pretty busy and I’ve had to bring work-stuff home to do in the evenings after the munchkins go to bed. That is not a good thing really as it cuts into my sewing / crafting time. However, it is unavoidable and only happens around this time of the year. Hence there is very little new stuff going on in my space right now.

The Granny shrug from last week is still an ongoing project. It has grown a bit but not by much.

I have managed to finish one small UFO which is this little pouch for my phone.

It matches my daily bag and brings my total number of pouches for my phone to 3. The other ones are here and here.

Something else which I managed to get started this week is my Blueberry vodka – or blueberry schnappes. A friend bought me this lovely big bottle of vodka at the duty-free shops when he was returning from a trip abroad. I decided that it was definately time for me to start making my blueberry vodka. The blueberries will sit in the vodka for at least 3 months and will be ready just in time for Christmas I reckon. Yippee!!

Hop over to Kootoyoo and see what else is happening in other creative spaces today.

Have a creative day, friends.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

What's your creative style?

Do you want to know what your creative style is?

There is a little quiz over at the Psychologies website which will tell you.

According to my answers, Psychologies tells me that my creativity enriches me. It says:

"Creativity is separate from the real world for you. But it’s a magical world in which you like to immerse yourself. When you’re involved in it, you get the wonderful sensation that there are no limits, that anything is possible. What you are really looking for is harmony — you want to feel you are a part of what you create. Planting flowers, writing poetry, embroidery or putting together a photo album, these are all suited to your sort of quiet creativity. You want to fall in love with what you create. You also think of creativity as a part of you in which you can take refuge and feel protected. As the psychoanalyst D Anzieu explained, creativity acts as an ‘encouraging parent — loving, enriching and supportive’. You would love to use your creativity to retreat into a world that is kind and reassuring. For you, being creative means having the chance to become one with what you create, bathe in the glory of it and allow yourself to be taken over by it. This is why you seem more suited to the sort of creativity that calls for gentleness, subtlety, harmony and patience."

I think that's very true for me. When I am very stressed from work (like now!), I find that a hour or so in the evening working on a project really helps. My craft is my refuge.

There is still not much sewing going on at the moment but I am still plugging away at my granny shrug very slowly.

Hope your week is going well for you, friends.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

A nice-smelling loony

Mr CraftyAdy rolls his eyes at me .... a lot.

Every time he sees me try to learn a new skill (latest being crochet) or start a new hobby or pull a saucepan or baking tray out of the cupboard whilst declaring my absolute certainty about trying out an experimental recipe, he rolls his eyes. Sometimes the eye-rolling is accompanied by a few comments. I think the words “crazy” or ‘loony’ feature fairly frequently.

Anyway, several months ago, whilst visiting Jessica Jones’s fabulous What About Orange blog, I came across a tutorial for making one’s own deodorant. I got quite excited and decided I wanted to have a go at making my own DIY deodorant.

(Did you roll your eyes just then? Haha!)

I like the idea of making my own deodorant. I like that it has no aluminium and I know exactly what goes into it. I’m not a particularly sweaty person so I don’t mind that it’s not an anti-perspirant – plus we’re getting towards autumn and winter now … not exactly sweat-inducing weather.

Here is my small collection of ingredients.

I am surprised at how easy this is to make – no stove-top cooking necessary.

I followed the recipe on Jessica’s blog and added my own essential oils. I used:
¼ cup bicarbonate of soda
¼ cup arrowroot powder
4 tablespoons of coconut oil
15 drops of essential oil (I used 10 drops of Geranium oil and 5 drops of Lavender oil - two of my favourite essential oils.)

I mixed the powders together, then added the oils and mixed them until it all blended together into a creamy gloop. I found it a little difficult to mix up in the beginning so I zapped it in the microwave for 25 seconds. That softened the coconut oil enough to mix in with the powders better. When I was happy that it was all nicely mixed up and there was a lovely smelling creamy gloop in my mixing container, I poured it into a couple of metal tins. These are from Lush and are perfect for the job. I stuck them into the fridge for an hour and it set into a nice firm block. See?

To use, I scooped a bit out of the tin and rubbed it into my skin. Several hours on, it still smells lovely – my skin that is.

Mr CraftyAdy came into the kitchen whilst I was stirring my concoction.
Our conversation went a bit like this:
“What on earth are you doing, woman?”
“Making my own deodorant! See?” (I show him my tub of gloop proudly.)
He gives me this withering look, rolls his eyes and walks off saying "Deodorant? Ha! Crazy woman."

There is one small problem with this DIY deodorant … it smells so nice that I keep catching myself sniffing at my pits ever so often! Mr CraftyAdy walked past a few minutes ago when I happened to be doing a quick spot of pit-sniffing – that earned me a double-take and more eye-rolling. Poor Mr CraftyAdy - I am sure he thinks he is the only sane one in our slightly loony household.

I might be a loony – but at least I am a nice-smelling loony!

Hope your weekend is going great, friends.

Saturday, 14 August 2010


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

An ex-student of mine shared this poem with me very recently. He said his dad had shared it with him years ago when he was a child. I like it very much and thought I would share it with you.

It is cold, dull and terribly wet here in Birmingham this morning. It’s been raining all night. I hope it is much brighter and warmer where you are, friends.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

My creative space

It is crazy busy at work right now and I’ve not managed to do much sewing of late. However, I do have something in my space to show you. (Mr CraftyAdy shook his head when he saw this and muttered something about having yet another UFO.)

I have been inspired by Kirsty’s granny shrug, Lara’s granny shrug and more recently, Fiona’s granny shrug. I thought I’d try to have a go at it. You may recall that I told you that I can’t knit to save my life and can only just barely crochet. After many hours, much gnashing of teeth, a great deal of cussing and numerous occasions of unravelling, I finally figured out what I am supposed to be doing and it’s progressing very very slowly.

Have a creative day, friends.

You can find other creative spaces here.

Monday, 9 August 2010

And now he is eight …

Where did eight years go? I remember him as this lovely smiley baby. Every morning, he would wake up with a smile on his lips.

Today, Dinoboy is eight. He is smart, loving and funny. Happy birthday, my son.

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

An extract from "The Prophet" by Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)

I pray that God grants me the wisdom and patience to be that stable bow from which this bright arrow will be sent forth.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

My creative space

I seem to have a lot of UFOs (Un-Finished Objects) floating about my creative space at the moment. I really need to finish some of these UFOs before moving on to other projects.

I finally finished this particular UFO which has been languishing in the corner of my space for many weeks. These are oven finger mitts. I have small hands – well, in comparison to store-bought oven mitts they seem pretty small. I chanced upon this tutorial recently and thought I would have a go at making some finger mitts. I used scraps which I had left over from other projects to make these.

Here’s how they work ... see?

I like that they are a lot less bulky than large oven mitts. I used two layers of batting – one of which was a ‘thermo’ reflective fleece for things like oven mitts etc. The bulkiness at the edges made it a bit awkward to sew the bias binding on. I have also learnt that I am really REALLY bad at sewing around curves! I need more practise. These are supposed to be nice even ovals – but they’ve ended up being more than slightly wonky ovals. Definately need more practise.

Check out other creative spaces over at Kootoyou’s blog.

Have a creative day, friends.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Rolo Pretzel turtles

These are about the easiest quick-make snacks ever – it’s a salty + sweet combo that really works … trust me!

I think I probably first saw these on the internet on Jaden Hair’s Steamy Kitchen blog.

You only need 3 ingredients:
1) mini pretzels
2) Rolo sweets – these are a chocolate covered caramel sweet
3) Nuts – I use roasted pecan halves but you can use almonds, hazels, cashews or even M&Ms or Smarties.

Preheat your oven to 190°C (don’t know what that is in °F) and grab a baking tray. First you have to unwrap the Rolos – naturally eating one or two along the way for quality control purposes.

Place your mini pretzels on the baking tray and place a Rolo on top of each pretzel.

Bake in oven for 2 minutes, until the chocolate just begins to soften. The Rolo should be soft but not completely melted.

Remove your tray from oven and immediately squish the chocolate with a nut.

Now I normally stick them into the fridge for half an hour or so to harden the choc up again if I am transporting them some place but you don’t have to. In actual fact, you really need to eat a few whilst they are warm and gooey. Go on – your taste-buds will thank you for it!

These are so very more-ish and extremely good. Try them soon, OK?

I’ve not been doing much crafting of late … been pretty tired. I hope to remedy that soon and share some more sewing projects with you soon.

Wordless Wednesday - 1st Harvest

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, 2 August 2010

Another taste of home – Pineapple tarts

When I was a kid, I loved these pineapple tarts. Back home in Malaysia, these are plentiful in the shops during Chinese New Year. I made them for the first time ever this year at Chinese New Year … actually I started way before Chinese New Year as I was experimenting with the recipe and tweaking it until I got it right. My colleagues and friends were enthusiastic guinea pigs in the weeks running up to Chinese New Year.

Over the weekend, I decided I was going to make some pineapple tarts. Dinoboy got quite excited when he saw me make the jam because he thought it meant that Chinese New Year was close by and he would get the usual monetary gifts he associated with Chinese New Year. He was quite disappointed when I told him that Chinese New Year wasn’t around the corner at all and I was only making them for fun!

These open tarts are simply a shortbread cookie baked with a dollop of pineapple jam in the middle. The shortbread pastry is wonderfully short and crumbly and not too sweet – hence the perfect companion for the sweet pineapple jam.

Back home in Malaysia, the jam is traditionally made with grated fresh pineapples. I found several recipes online which used tinned pineapples. It works really well and is a lot simpler to manage.

Making the pineapple jam is pretty easy.
I used:
• Approximately 3 cans (net weight per can 567g) sliced pineapples in pineapple juice – I drained the pineapple slices completely, put them into my food processor and blitzed it until it was a fine-ish pulp. I then used my measuring cup and measured out 4 cups of pineapple pulp. The 3 cans yielded roughly 4 cups of pulp.
• Sugar – I used ¾ (three quarter) cup of sugar for each cup of pineapple pulp. So 4 cups pulp = 3 cups of sugar
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1 large stick of cinnamon
• 6 cloves
• 1 segment of star anise

I used my Le Creuset enamelled cast iron dutch oven to cook my jam in. Pineapples are pretty acidic – please do not use your non-stick pots to make your jam. Apparently making this jam in non-stick coated pans or aluminium pans ruins them. Stainless steel pots can be used. Apparently you can also make the jam in a large glass bowl in the microwave. I put everything into the pot and brought it up to the boil, then simmered it for about a couple of hours, stirring constantly, until the mixture is reduced and is sticky and thick. The really tricky part of cooking the jam is knowing when to stop. I normally cook the jam till it coats the wooden spoon and the jam doesn't fall off the spoon immediately. The jam should be a rich golden colour. Here is a photo of my jam – which has gone just slightly darker than I would have liked.

When the jam is done, pick out the spices and discard them. Then put the jam into a container and put it into the fridge until you need to use it. I normally make the jam a day before I want to make my tarts.

It’s a lot easier to roll the jam into small balls like these before cutting the pastry shapes out. I use a teaspoon and each ball is roughly a third of a teaspoonful. The jam when chilled is sticky and should be firm enough to roll into a small ball between the palms of your hands. Dampen your palms slightly when rolling the balls.

On to the pastry for the tarts. I used the following to make 1 portion of pastry:

340g plain flour
2 tablespoon icing sugar
Half teaspoon salt
200g cold butter – cut into small chunks.
1 egg yolk
Half teaspoon vanilla essence
5 teaspoon ice-cold water
Half teaspoon baking powder

By the way, you will also need 1 egg beaten with a teaspoon of water for glazing the tarts just prior to baking.

I normally make my pastry in my food processor. Put flour, salt and sugar into the food processor and pulse a couple of times to mix. Then add the chunks of butter and pulse until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk, water, vanilla essence and pulse the mixture until a dough is formed. It’ll look like this.

Turn out onto a piece of food wrap, shape it lightly into a sausage-like shape, wrap it up and chill it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

I normally make 2 or 3 portions of this pastry at a time. 1 portion makes around 30 tarts and will use up roughly a quarter of your jam.

Preheat the oven to 190ยบ C. Cut the chilled pastry into 4 chunks.
Roll each chunk out on a floured surface until approx a quarter inch thick.
Cut shapes out of the pastry. I used this special pineapple tart mould which I bought from the Biodiversity Herbs website.

The outer ring cuts the shape and the press in the middle stamps a pattern in the pastry and makes a hollow in the middle ready for your jam ball. See?

Space the tarts slightly apart on a baking sheet.

Brush each tart with the glaze I mentioned earlier. Then drop a ball of jam in each and press the ball down slightly into the hollow in the tart. Here they are ready to go into the oven.

I baked these for 15 minutes in the oven. When done, I removed the tarts and placed them on a wire rack to cool. Yum!

I normally store them in an airtight container after they have cooled. I have no idea how long these keep for in the airtight container as they don’t last very long in our house and if I take them into work, they disappear very quickly indeed.

Wishing you a good week ahead, friends.