Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I spilled the ink across the page trying to spell your name

Thank you so much for all you lovely comments on the re-stocking of the shop! It appears the boxes for sockses are pretty popular - I'll be making some more and putting them in the shop in the next couple of days. Hopefully soon I'll have a break from work (I'm calling it "unemployment by choice") so that I can put more effort into Buttontree Lane. I have missed it so much. And I have heaps of new ideas (and heaps and heaps of fabric to make things with. Shhhh.)

My latest pick-up put-down project has been stitching some hankies. I just love handkerchiefs and being a chronic hayfever sufferer I never stray far from home without one in my pocket and a couple in my handbag. Call me old-fashioned, but there is nothing like a clean, freshly ironed handkerchief to pull out of your pocket when you are about to sneeze. Handerchief ironing is the only ironing I love - it's always been that way, from when I first used to iron Dad's handerchiefs when I was a wee thing. Shirts? Not so. Hankies? Bring it on!

I think we can blame my short attention span, for that!

Stitched handkerchiefs

I find it a little difficult getting nice white ladies' hankies which are suitable to stitch, but I discovered some pretty coloured ones in a boxed set from David Jones a couple of months ago, and I've been keeping busy prettying them up. As usual I've used Sublime Stitching patterns. They really are fantastic to use - cute, sassy and with a sense of humour.

What I am currently reading

I'm currently reading Molly Wizenberg's book "A Homemade Life". Molly is the author of Orangette. This book is beautiful. I love nothing better than really well-written stories. Really well-written. I have laughed, and cried, and read every word of the recipes and loved how she words them. Have I made anything yet? No, but I might. Can I put this book down? No! And I'm not looking forward to finishing it either. How will anything else compare?

Only two days to go until the weekend. I'm already scheming - planting bulbs, swimming, sorting out the vegetable seedlings and sewing. If St Kilda were playing on free-to-air TV that would just make the weekend better than perfect.

Listen to me - having a great weekend before it's even happened.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Seasons change with the scenery

Wet, miserable, cold day

A couple of days before the Anzac Day long weekend started, the weather bureau predicted strong winds, lots of rain, and a lot of shivery coldness.

I couldn't have been more delighted.

Wet, miserable, cold day

Because I had something very important to do.

Buttontree Lane update

shop has reopened* for business.

* Buttontree Lane was never actually closed - it just had no stock.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Getting the crafting groove back

It seems that lately I have struggled to find a real passion for crafting. In fact I think I may have lost my crafting mojo. Crochet held absolutely no appeal, and except for Pip's book keeping the pilot light burning, I could have just given up sewing altogether. I just didn't have the passion anymore.

Which is such a horrific thought that I may look back on these words in months to come and give myself a firm talking to.

Felt brooch

On Saturday we had our third Brown Owls meeting, and this time we made felt brooches. One of the other prefects made up the kits (and a very clever job she did of them, too) and I had the good fortune to spend the afternoon with cups of tea, some very yummy treats, and some felt, needle and thread. I made the brooch in the (bad) photo above. Making the brooch was just the icing on the cake, though. I was sitting and chatting with people who were so much more creative and clever than me, and they are the ones who helped me get my groove back. People who make teeny toadstool brooches like this one.

Bron's iddybiddy toadstool brooch

And this elephant (not photographed is the matching skirt and shirt that the little girl who owns him was wearing).

Beautiful elephant made by Michelle

And so much more that I didn't get a chance to photograph. And so I rode home humming with excitement at being so inspired. And then I realised. It was back.

Since then ...


Twisted hexagon quilt blocks

Crocheted socks

It feels so good.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Use it all up - terzo giorno

Morning, sunshine

Morning, sunshine!

It's a beautiful day in Canberra and I can't wait to get into the garden and potter for the rest of the day. The last of the tomato glut has been donated to a friend with a kind heart who is cooking for another friend in need, so it's time to rip the tomato plants out and plant some snow peas, sugar snaps and silverbeet in their place. The eggplants and capsicums are still fruiting, so they'll stay around a little longer.

Last night I turned the eggplants into a fantastic meal which I am still thinking about. I have the leftovers in the fridge saved for dinner tonight, and it's all I can do to not abandon that idea just eat it for lunch instead. It was that delicious.
It had a very Indian feel about it (hard not to with the garam masala) and it was so very fragrant whilst also being bloody fantastic. We'll be making this one again and again.

Spicy eggplants

Feeds 4.

You'll need:
Two large eggplants, or 6 Lebanese/Japanese eggplants. I used the latter because that's what I grow
Oil for shallow frying
2 medium onions, finely chopped
400g tin of diced tomatoes (I also added a chopped fresh tomato, just because it was there)
A squirt of tomato sauce
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 teaspoons of fresh grated ginger
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 fresh chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
4 Lebanese breads, cut into wedges

1. Slice the eggplants, throw into a collander, and salt. Let drain for 20 minutes or so, then rinse and pat dry. ( I know there are different schools of thought on this. Maggie Beer believes that eggplants these days don't need salting, as the bitterness has been bred out of them. I can tell you that I have tried both salting and not salting, and the taste is definitely different. I will salt each time, even for only 10 minutes, as I like the taste a lot better)


2. In the meantime, mix together the tomatoes, tomato paste and sauce, onions, garlic, ginger and chilli. Set aside.

3. In a heavy frying pan, heat the oil and fry the eggplants until they are brown on both sides. Do this in several batches. Remove eggplants and set aside.

4. If your frying pan is deep and has a lid, then keep using it for this step. Mine doesn't have a lid so I used a stock pot. Heat a little oil (or reheat what you have left from frying the eggplants) and add the garam masala and turmeric. Stirfry for a couple of seconds (don't do what I did and fry for longer, or your eyes will be stinging for the rest of the night!) then quickly add the tomato mix. Stir, and cook for 5 minutes. I added about a 1/4 cup of water this point to make the sauce a little less stodgy. Add the eggplants carefully and cover with the sauce. Turn the heat to a low heat and put the lid on. Cook for 15 - 20 minutes, checking occassionally to give a little stir. Check it for seasoning, but the only thing I added was pepper, as I found it was salty enough from the tomato paste and sauce.

5. Remove from heat, and serve with wedges of Lebanese bread. We ate the entire meal using the bread to pick up the food. It was divine. You could also serve it with basmati rice or garlic mash.

Spicy eggplant

My only complaint with this dish was that the onion didn't want to cook all the way through and uncooked onion tends to upset my stomach. Next time I'll be cooking the onion first and then adding the spices and tomatoes after.

That's the last of my 'use it up' recipes. Hope you've enjoyed them, and if you use them I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Use it all up - secondo giorno

Today's use-it-up ingredient is capsicum. We are swimming in them at the moment, and there are still many more to come from the vegetable patch. A version of chilli con carne has always been a favourite in our house, but I make my own recipe up each time and I never remember what I did the time before as I never write it down. Until now.

I've got a really bad cold, so Mr Quiltingmick banished me from the kitchen and took instruction. It was all a bit ad hoc and based purely on the chef's tastebuds, as I have none this week.

Mexico Mick's Chilli Con Carne - Greek Style

Half a kilo of mince
Two capsicums, seeded and diced
Tin of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Tin of diced italian tomatoes
Dried chilli flakes
Salt, pepper
Pita bread

Chilli con carne - #1

Add capsicums to a heated, oiled saucepan, and stir for a couple of minutes until slightly softened. Remove from pan. Brown the mince in the pan.

Chilli con carne - #3

Add red kidney beans, tomatoes and capsicum. Stir through. Then add 1 1/2 teaspoons of mild paprika (or use more or less to taste), a couple of shakes of chilli flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.

Chilli con carne - #2

While the mince is heating through, cut the pita breads in half, and pop in the toaster until they are warmed through and have opened up. Serve pitas on a plate with chilli, a spoon and a smile.

Chilli con carne - #24

For someone who doesn't spend much time in the kitchen (unless it's bacon and eggs, or washing up) he did a great job. It tasted absolutely sensational, even with my dodgy tastebuds.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Use it all up - primo giorno

While I slothed around at the folk festival for most of the weekend, Mr Quiltingmick spent hours and hours in the garden pruning, weeding, and auditing the overgrown vegetable patch. Seems we still have a lot of tomatoes to use, as well as capsicums and eggplants. I think they call it a "glut" in gardening circles. (He also discovered a heap of cucumbers that were hiding behind the apple tree, but I have no intention of doing anything with them other than giving them to the neighbours or feeding them to the compost. So. Over. Them.)

We're getting towards the end of the summer crop

I've decided this is the week to use the produce up. It doesn't look like we'll be having a winter vegetable garden, so it's now or never.

To this end, I'm pulling out all the cookbooks, all the childhood memories, and a fair whack of "lets just see what happens when ..." to come up with some results we'll be happy to eat, and I'm going to blog them. I'll share the recipes where I can.

Yesterday I made my mum's macaroni cheese. Except I think I've bastardised it along the way, mainly because she used to make it a lot smaller, and I started making it when I first moved to Canberra, and we (all twenty of us) were so poor that we used to have pot luck dinners for our entertainment.

Michelle's Mum's Macaroni Cheese

This makes a whopping amount - feeds 6 really hungry people and 12 for a pot luck dinner.

You'll need:

Tomatoes, sliced (I used about 8 little ones)
A large onion, also sliced
Grated cheddar cheese (I love my cheese, so I use about 1 1/2 - 2 cups)
2 and-a-smidge cups uncooked macaroni, cooked
White sauce. I don't care how you make it. Mine is done with butter, flour, milk and lots of white pepper.

Macaroni cheese #1

Mix the white sauce into the cooked macaroni. Best not make it too wet. Grease a big Pyrex casserole dish, and then ...

Layer one third of the macaroni on the bottom of the dish, then a little of the cheese, half the onion, half the tomatoes, salt and pepper, and repeat.

Macaroni cheese #2

End with a layer of macaroni and put cheese on the top. Most of the cheese goes on the top because honestly, the best part of this dish is the cheesy top. Yum.

Macaroni cheese #3

Cook in a preheated 200 degree (celsius) oven for about 30-35 minutes, or until the top is browned. If you want the onion to be less crunchy, cook it at 180 degrees for longer.

Macaroni cheese #4

Things most definitely do taste better served in vintage Pyrex!

I make this every few weeks in summer, and freeze it in portions for lunches. Mr Quiltingmick hates it (it has no meat) but I love it and I'm reminded of Saturday night dinners in front of "Hey Hey It's Saturday" when I was a teenager.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Knitter's Curse

I saw Ange Takats perform tonight and I thought she was pretty special. Of many beautiful songs she sings, she sings one about knitting (and she is a knitter).

While I don't enjoy knitting, I do enjoy crocheting and sewing and making things for people. And it's true. Loves does go in every stitch.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Oh yes! Happy!

Without going too much into details, I can say that in the last few weeks I have rarely stopped for breath. I have been so physically and mentally exhausted each day I have cried myself to sleep at night and then cried all the way into work the next morning. I have no time for play, for gardening, for going out, cooking, blog-reading or for friends. Yes, it's been that insane.

So to spend a whole night last night relaxing and sewing was a rare treat. I made something, and it wasn't for the shop or for someone else. It was for me.

Cute as a Button Vintage Clutch

Pattern: Cute as a Button Vintage Clutch by Kara Smith from "
Meet Me At Mikes - 26 Fun and Crafty Projects"

Materials: A variety of screenprinted linen blends from
Lara Cameron via Ink and Spindle and a vintage button from my collection.

Alterations: I used heavyweight interfacing instead of mediumweight, mainly because it's what I had on hand, but also because I wanted a stiffer clutch. It worked out well, even if it was a little hard getting it to turn inside out.

Notes: There are some who believe that "good" fabric shouldn't be used as lining, where you won't be able to see it. I am not one of those people, and I know I'll see the lining everytime I open it.

Cute as a Button Vintage Clutch - lining

I'll be using this clutch for the first time this Friday, where I'll be taking my life back for another night so that I can see a band with a friend or two. There will be music, good food, great company and gin, baby.

So, what's next on the list of projects from this fantastic book? I have the fabric already picked out.


But I'm not allowing myself to start it until I've written three job applications and gotten this week's big work deadline out the way. I'll be champing at the bit until then.