Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Around the grounds

This time next week we'll be in Adelaide (can I get a WOOHOO) and won't be back home for several weeks.  We do have a friend looking after the place while we're gone but I thought now might be a good time to make a record of how awesome our edible garden is looking at the moment.

Coriander has bolted to seed.  Kind of love how it looks
Spot the cat

Blair's "rescue" olive tree might actually give us a decent crop this year

The corn is as high as an elephant's eye...

That my friends is a garden in full swing.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Life lately

I made shortbread on Saturday and it was awesome!  I can't believe I haven't tried to make it before.  It was so easy.  Personally I'm not actually a big shortbread fan but Blair LOVES it so it's good to have this one in my repertoire.  I used this recipe from Taste, but my sister told me about a 1,2,3 version which is even easier: 1 part sugar to 2 parts butter to 3 parts flour.  Sweet!

I also finished off my floor mat for the baby's room.  I ordered some navy yarn to finish it with, but didn't consider the size of the rounds which meant I could only get a couple of rounds out of the ball.  I would have liked to put another row of mint green around the outside but, again, the yarn didn't stretch that far.  I'm still quite pleased with how it turned out, and Blair found Biggie Smalls sleeping on it the other day so I think he approves too.

I'm currently nursing some mild sunburn because Blair and I spent the day crabbing with our friends down at Mandurah.  Their parents own a house right on Harvey Estuary in the most heavenly spot.  It is truly my idea of paradise, and I'm pretty much ready to move down there tomorrow.  Except that then Blair would have a 1.5 hour commute to work.  Pesky details.  I mean, look at this view from their back verandah:
The commute would be worth it, Blair!
Anyway, we headed out on the boat about 10am.  It was positively glassy with only the softest cool breeze blowing.  Unfortunately the perfect conditions meant I didn't notice the sun beating down on my shoulders and I am now a little overcooked.  Totes worth it.

In case you couldn't tell, Blair loves to be out on the water.

Just to ratchet the perfection up to level 10, we also saw several groups of dolphins.

It took a few goes to find the good crabbing spots but we got a very respectable haul of crabs in the end.  Frankly from my perspective it was such a nice day out I couldn't have cared less if we had come home empty-handed.  I don't think the boys would have been okay with that though.

This week ahead is my last week at work before going on maternity leave, which I am really looking forward to.  Although I am going to miss work I think.  I have such a good time there every day, and I don't think there's many people who could say that.  Still I'm excited to put my feet up, get that baby's room set up, and most importantly, be able to wear elastic-waisted pants and Havaianas every single day.

Blair and I are going to head home (for me) to Adelaide for Christmas, then on home (for him) to NZ for New Year's and the first week of January.  I'm so looking forward to the time with our families - the last time they'll see us as just a twosome!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

How Very Pinteresting #2 - Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I wasn't sure when or what I was going to do for my next "how very Pinteresting" post but an excess of zucchinis from the veg garden soon helped me decide.

Last year we had one plant that half-heartedly produced male flowers all summer, and then managed a tiny zucchini in about March before it withered and died.  This year without much forethought we planted four zucchini plants and were caught a bit by surprise when they all flourished spectacularly.  At first I was beside myself, zucchinis at every meal!  I even sacrificed the crop of one plant for weeks, leaving a zucchini unpicked to see how big it would grow.  The answer is, pretty big!

Needless to say, I immediately cleaned the crisper drawer after taking this photo
But we quickly realised that four plants is probably three too many, especially when one member of the family (ahem, Blair!) doesn't even like zucchini.  It got to the point where I would see more zucchinis ripening and just think ugghghhhhhggh.  Then I started picking them when they were still tiny, just so I'd have less to use up in the kitchen.

I fried them, roasted them, made fritters, and mixed them through pasta.  I have given kilos away.  What I needed was a recipe that would use up several zucchini in one go (and to be honest it would be great if did not taste like zucchini).

Enter the Chocolate Zucchini Cake.  Original pin here:

Let me preface this by saying that this is not the best-written recipe in the world.  You measure out all your wet ingredients, and then have to go and wash all your cups and spoons to measure out the dry ingredients. Why??  That's just poor planning.  Take it from me: prepare your dry ingredients FIRST.

Also: there was no note on how finely to shred the zucchini, and mine clearly was too coarse.  It didn't end up ruining the cake or anything, but the shreds of zucchini are still clearly visible throughout the cake.  So shred finely if you want the zucchini to disappear into the cake.

And lastly: holy mother that chocolate buttercream is amazing.  It's a hassle to make compared to a basic icing recipe but it is SO worth it.

I didn't end up using all these, so there are still some in the fridge damn it
Now go and wash everything you just used so you can measure out your dry ingredients.  Can you tell I was annoyed? I was annoyed.
This is about when I looked at it and thought "I can't see how all that zucchini is going to disappear into the cake."
Yes.  Still there.
I forgot to take photos of the buttercream in process, but it just went round and round in the KitchenAid until I decided it was done.  And anyway, I took extra photos of the finished product which is the main thing.

Oh!  Nearly forgot - I halved the buttercream recipe which was a good call because otherwise I would have had tons left over which I probably would have ended up eating straight from the bowl with my fingers.

Oh yes.  YES.

Pretty f-ing amazing.  You can sort of see in this photo that there are shreds of zucchini throughout the cake.  Don't let that put you off.  This cake is moist and delicious, and is topped with buttercream like something that fell from heaven.
And, for comparison's sake, here is the original pinner's photo.  Hers looks a bit fluffier than mine, and there's no zucchini evident, but otherwise I'm pretty damn pleased.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Crochet and quilting and sewing… oh my!

So a couple of weekends ago, a truly momentous milestone was reached.  Nope, nothing to do with the pregnancy!  I finally, FINALLY, finished the quilt I've been working on for the past, what, eighteen months.  I pretty much hated the process from start to finish but was determined to see it through.  I absolutely refused to throw away the half-finished quilt in defeat.  But I always had to force myself to sit down at the machine to work on it which is why it took sooooo loooooong.

When I first started, I was determined that this was not a baby quilt.  After all, at that time I wasn't even sure I wanted to have kids.  Looking at the quilt now, I can't believe I didn't think it was a baby quilt.  Look at those colours.  What else could it be??

There are many, many mistakes and imperfections in this project.  If I were to make another one, it would be A LOT better.  However I do not want to make another quilt for as long as I live.  I did it, it's done, and that's it.

As for crochet…

My floor mat is still languishing on the hook, so close to finished!  But sadly I ran out of the minty green t-shirt yarn I was using and when I ordered more from the shop, it arrived a slightly different shade of green which doesn't match.  Talk about frustrating!  I'm trying to decide whether to finish the mat in the mismatched colour, which will annoy me forever more, or whether to order some white or grey, and maybe navy, to finish it with.

My granny square blanket is ready and waiting for our autumn baby.

Looking at it now, it's pretty girly.  So I am mentally putting it in the "if it's a girl" pile, and have ordered some cream and navy yarn to make an "if it's a boy" option.

This blanket was such an easy project and super fast to work up, something I could pick up and work on mindlessly as I watched TV with Blair.  By the time I was finished I was pretty sick of the ol' granny square (and what with the quilt, the floor mat, and this blanket, I was definitely tired of "flat" projects!).

That made it easy to choose a little baby cardigan to make next.

I chose a simple pattern recommended by Emma, and it sprang forth from my hook in record time.

It too is now finished, folded and sitting in the spare room awaiting a certain arrival.  I love how it turned out.

How cute is it!!  So teeny! (And yes, still needs buttons but I bought them in the wrong size so it just needs those sorted before it's totally, completely finished)
I suspect there won't be a lot of time for crochet post-March 2015.  I still have a couple of projects in mind so once I'm on maternity leave after Christmas I'm excited to have some time to get stuck in.

Now for the specifics:
  1. The quilt probably doesn't need much explanation - a bunch of quilting cottons from Textile Traders, a few YouTube tutorials and many hours at the machine.  NEXT.
  2. For the floor mat, I used a 15mm hook and t-shirt yarn that I bought off Etsy.  If you decide to do the same, just make sure you buy enough yarn: don't rely on being able to get more of the same colour months later!  The pattern is this one off Ravelry.  Also, the bigger the hook the better, because looser stitches mean the mat will stretch and flatten out underfoot more easily.
  3. For the granny square blanket I used a 5.5mm hook and self-striping 8ply acrylic yarn from Big W.  There's no pattern for the blanket because it's just one giant granny square.  The bigger hook size means the weave is quite loose and stretchy which is what I wanted.  For the edging I did two rows of single crochet and then shell stitched all the way around.
  4. For the baby cardigan I used a 4.5mm hook and a "baby" 8ply from Big W (can you tell I'm trying to use up all my crappy acrylic yarn?).  The pattern came from Ravelry: I made the 3-6 month size, and left off the collar.
  5. How cute is my cat?

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Nursery inspo

Pretty much as soon as I loftily claimed I had no interest in decorating a baby room in this post, I started to get interested in decorating a baby room.  

I'm not really one to go with an intense theme, and considering that we are not finding out the gender of the baby it's not going to be a symphony in blue or pink.  Nor would it be if we knew the gender, I might add.  Not my style, peeps, not my style.

However, it is kind of nice to make a fuss of this baby's arrival, and putting some thought into its room is a part of that.

So, very roughly, here's what I'm picturing so far.

Neutrals, stripes (the only pattern I can accept in my life), maybe with a very subtle ocean theme as a nod to Blair's and my love of the sea.

A classic striped bag for toys, a paper mobile, and a squishy friend who's easy for tiny hands to hold on to.  We don't want our child to ever have a mountain of toys (yes I know that will probably go out the window within a couple of weeks).  So far the only toy I've bought is the Country Road bunny above.  I'm also going to attempt to crochet a black cat softie in honour of Biggie Smalls, who is and will always be my number one baby.

Rather than a traditional change table that will eventually become useless, we bought the Ikea Hemnes dresser above, which the change mat will sit on top of.  Or maybe not, a lot of people have said to me that it's easy (and safer) to change nappies on the floor.  We'll see what suits us, but I like not having a specific change table.  The cot is another Ikea special, recommended by my sister.  Good enough for me!

I got this beautiful handmade wooden rattle/teething ring off Etsy.  We want to avoid plastic toys as much as possible not just for environmental reasons but also aesthetic ones.  Okay, if I'm honest I am the only one who cares about the aesthetics.  Blair just wants things that will last the distance and not end up in landfill after six months.

A comfy chair for feeding - although rather than the beautiful but very expensive Monte Luca chair above, we'll have my trusty old Ikea (sensing a theme?) PoƤng chair which doesn't rock but does have a foot stool.  I've actually been told to avoid a rocker because a) the baby then comes to rely on the rocking motion and b) rockers provide opportunities for tiny fingers to get crushed.

We plan to have as much as possible within arm's reach, which means lots of baskets and open topped storage options.  We got a little wheeled trolley from - you guessed it - Ikea to keep lotions, wipes, baby oil etc handy.

I bought the above Lauren Merrick watercolour not long after we found out I was pregnant, with the intention that it would hang in our baby's room.  I kind of love it A LOT.

We're going to hold off on assembling the room until I'm on maternity leave (just a handful of weeks left, eek).  But that's sort of what we're- okay I'M- picturing.